Las Vegas Sun

July 28, 2014

Currently: 85° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account

Incident at Paris Las Vegas (UPDATED)

Culinary Union organizers have been working in earnest for the last week to

get the word out about the union's endorsed candidate, Sen. Barack Obama,

and to lock down member support in the run-up to Saturday's caucus.

But two Culinary members supporting Sen. Hillary Clinton say they watched today as two of those field organizers were overzealous in their efforts as

they collected pledge cards for Obama in the break room of a Strip casino. The Clinton campaign quickly tried to paint the incident as part of a broader pattern, though introduced no other evidence.

After the Sun worked the story for two hours, this much is clear: What exactly happened this afternoon at Paris Las

Vegas depends on whom you talk to. To hear Clinton's campaign and her

supporters tell it, the union intimidated a member into caucusing for

Obama, demanding that she sign a pledge card -- or face exile from the caucus.

To hear the alleged victim tell it, it was much more of a misunderstanding.

Marie Angers, a cook at Paris, and her son, Matt DeFalco, a kitchen runner

at the resort, told the Sun they saw two Culinary representatives intimidate

a coworker, Sylvia Antuna, by telling her that she had to support Obama if she wanted to caucus.

Both Angers and DeFalco are supporters of Clinton, whose campaign contacted

the Sun about this incident separately.

On top of that, Angers and DeFalco said, the reps handed Antuna an Obama pledge card, telling her she

had to sign it to participate in the caucus and that today was the deadline.

"The lady told all of us: Nobody can go to the caucus unless you’re voting

for Obama," Angers said. "They have no right to do what they did. This is

America. You should be able to vote for who you feel like. It doesn’t matter

who the union is endorsing. They can try to persuade us but it doesn't mean

people have to vote for them."

But Antuna tells a different story. She said she was filling out a voter

registration form when the union reps approached her about Obama. When she

told them she wasn't sure about caucusing for him, one rep took her

registration form, indeed telling her that she couldn't participate Saturday

if she wasn't supporting Obama.

At that point, Antuna said, Angers and DeFalco, who were sitting at a

neighboring table, engaged the union rep in a heated discussion. Antuna said

she sat silent while both sides swapped words. She doesn't recall the bit

about the pledge cards.

One key fact: The union reps spoke broken English.

"It's possible it was a miscommunication," Antuna said.

In fact, Antuna said the Culinary called her later to inform her the union

had received her voter registration form, spoken with her supervisor and

that she was clear to caucus during her shift on Saturday.

"I don’t even know what to think," she said. "This is totally new to me. I’m

just glad I can actually go and caucus."

Antuna said she's undecided on a candidate.

Pilar Weiss, political director of the Culinary, said she would try to find out

about the incident.

“I'm not belittling it,” Weiss said. “I'm taking it seriously, and I'm going to look into

It. But we’re conducting training all the time with our staff to

be respectful of other opinions. We would never engage in voter

intimidation.”

She said that with just a few days before the caucus, many members have

become emotionally attached to Obama and other candidates, which can lead to

misunderstandings and miscommunications.

“We want our members to stick together and support Obama, but our organizers

are being trained to know some of our members and their families are

participating for other candidates. And we want them to participate,” she

said.

———

Updated 8:30 p.m.:

The Culinary Union has investigated and says the source of the drama seemed to be about how one changes one's party registration three days before the caucus.

Antuna was a registered independent, and the union reps were talking to her about how she had to be a Democrat to participate on Saturday, Weiss said.

Hardly scandalous and certainly not intimidation, she added.

Weiss said she suspects the whole incident was drummed up by the enthusiastic Clinton supporters, who got heated when the union reps started pitching Obama.



— Sun reporter J. Patrick Coolican contributed reporting to this post.

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy