Published Monday, Dec. 7, 2015 | 6:30 p.m.
Updated Monday, Dec. 7, 2015 | 9:45 p.m.
Three days after endorsing Hillary Clinton in her race for president, U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez faced tough questions Monday from members of the Culinary Union on his third and final stop stumping for the former secretary of state in Las Vegas.
Culinary Union members pressed Perez during a question-and-answer session on the specifics of what Clinton would do about the Affordable Care Act’s so-called “Cadillac tax,” how she would ensure that union workers aren’t harassed or intimidated and what she would do to support workers in their unionization efforts. Perez gave a similar answer to each question: “Help us elect responsible people.”
By “responsible people,” Perez meant Clinton. “Elect someone who shares your values,” Perez told the crowd of about 100 at the Culinary Union offices. “That’s Hillary Clinton.”
The Culinary Union has yet to endorse a candidate for president, but the visit gave the union’s members an opportunity to have Perez listen to their concerns, said the union’s political director Yvanna Cancela.
“Anytime members have an opportunity to voice their concerns about the political landscape is a good thing,” Cancela said. “I’m hopeful he’ll take back our concerns to the administration and Clinton’s campaign.”
Workers were particularly concerned about the Cadillac tax, a 40 percent tax on high-value employer-sponsored insurance policies. Clinton called for a repeal of the tax in September, joining her two Democratic opponents Sen. Bernie Sanders and Gov. Martin O’Malley.
“We will continue to work with you because it’s an important issue,” Perez told one of the workers in response to a question about the tax.
Perez also gave his congratulations to workers at the Trump International Hotel who the Culinary Union announced Monday voted to join its union and the Bartenders Union Local 165. Workers gave a standing ovation in honor of the vote and chanted, “Si, se puede.”
Earlier in the day, Perez met with a handful of small-business owners at Makers & Finders Coffee in downtown Las Vegas, where he listened to their concerns about running businesses in the valley.
Business owners voiced myriad concerns, namely difficulties in securing financing for their businesses, red tape and finding mentors to help guide their businesses. Perez sympathized, telling them that Clinton was the candidate to help small businesses and continue the economic recovery seen under President Barack Obama.
“This economy was in a ditch. I don’t have to tell anyone in Nevada we were in a ditch,” Perez said to the group. “This was ground zero for the foreclosure crisis.”
One small-business owner, Latoya Holman, who runs the beauty bar Blowout Dollhouse with locations at the Container Park downtown and Tivoli Village, told Perez that opening her business two years ago was extremely difficult, particularly in terms of securing financing. She said she used her retirement and put her expenses on credit.
“As a small-business owner what I found is unique is you’re trying to fit in these big business structures, but you can’t,” Holman said. “Not without going without sleep or going without food.”
Las Vegas Councilman Bob Coffin, who officially announced his endorsement of Clinton on Monday, told Perez how the city council has taken steps to support local business owners and how much the downtown area had changed over the past few years.
In an interview after the event, Perez said that Clinton has a “proven track record,” which is why he supports her over one of her Democratic presidential opponents and his former boss, Gov. O’Malley. Perez served as Maryland's labor secretary under O’Malley until 2009.
“What Hillary Clinton brings to this enterprise is that she has a steely resolve. ‘How do I resolve these kitchen table issues?’” Perez said in the interview. “That’s her north star.”
Perez also stopped by a Service Employees International Union phone bank where he gave a brief speech and made a couple of phone calls, encouraging voters to support Clinton at the caucus and in November.
Today marks Perez’s first public appearance on behalf of Clinton after endorsing her in Iowa on Friday.