Beating Trump is personal, not just political, for Nevada unions

But none of Clinton’s supporters is feeling overconfident, despite this seeming disparity in grassroots activism. While 39 percent of Nevada’s voters are Democrats compared with 33 percent who are Republicans, Trump’s supporters are out there. Cariaga found them while canvassing last week in a middle-class neighborhood in northwest Las Vegas.

“There’s no way I’m voting for her,” a white-haired man said to Cariaga after she knocked on his door. “I had to go back to work because Obamacare was so expensive — and she’s more liberal than he is.” Then he slammed the door.

A few blocks away, 24-year-old Jacob Williams told Cariaga he didn’t know whom he would be casting his first ballot for president for because “I hate them both. My dad has been talking about how much he doesn’t like Hillary ever since I was a little kid.” He doesn’t think he could ever vote for the former secretary of state.

Clinton supporters know Nevada is going to be won door-to-door. Donna West, a retired state employee, has turned her garage on the city’s heavily Latino east side into a field office, filled with voter lists and card tables. Over the next few weeks, she expects volunteers to talk twice to each of the roughly 5,000 voters in her turf.

“Nevada is still a very small state,” West said. “People are more likely to vote for someone who comes to their door.”

But the Trump campaign is not relying on grassroots campaigning. The only item listed on the Clark County GOP online calendar Saturday was an all-day call for volunteers to come to Rodeo Park in suburban Henderson on behalf of a state Legislature candidate. But the only political people at the park late in the morning were three union sheet metal workers from Los Angeles who came to walk precincts for Clinton.

“This is definitely personal for me because I don’t hear anything from Trump that says he’s for the working man,” said Kristian Hernandez, a 46-year-old sheet metal worker from Azusa (Los Angeles County), one of 200 Los Angeles-area union members in town for a weekend of volunteering. “She does seem like she’s for the working man.”

Downticket Nevada Republicans in tight battles, including Senate candidate Rep. Joe Heck, R-Las Vegas, and Rep. Cresent Hardy, R-Las Vegas, are sensing the tide turning. Both rescinded their endorsements of Trump this month after the release of the “Access Hollywood” recording where Trump crudely boasts that he uses his celebrity to force himself upon women.

After her union gave her a ride to a pop-up polling site near the Strip Saturday, housekeeper Jelessa Morgan cast a vote for Clinton. What makes her opposition to Trump personal “is that he has his business (hotel) in Nevada, we give him our money, and then he says all this stuff about people. It’s just a game with him.”

“I don’t believe it is as close as the numbers say it is,” said Tiffany Howard, a professor of political science at UNLV. “This is a turnout game now. And there’s more of her supporters and those who hate Trump than there are of his supporters and people who hate” Clinton.

While hundreds of Trump supporters in California have traveled to Nevada for their candidate, Howard said, “I’m surprised that there hasn’t been more visible support for Trump. I saw way more support for Mitt Romney” in 2012.

The Trump campaign declined to allow a Chronicle reporter inside its Las Vegas headquarters, which is on the end of a cul-de-sac in a single-story office building in an industrial area near the airport. The window coverings are drawn, and only a couple of small “Trump/Pence” signs differentiate it from any of the other nearby buildings. The campaign also declined to allow The Chronicle to shadow its door-to-door canvassers — as campaigns of all stripes regularly do. Campaign officials declined to comment for this story.

“We’ve got a lot of people here who are for Mr. Trump, don’t you worry,” a volunteer who would give his name only as Charles said as he unloaded cases of bottled water and carried them inside. “They just don’t want to be hassled.”

“He is divisive,” said Monie Cariaga, a 49-year-old cocktail waitress at the Paris Hotel, who has taken a one-month leave from her job to knock on 400 doors a week for union-endorsed Democratic candidates. The single mother who raised three children was upset by comments Trump made in August when asked what his daughter Ivanka should do if she was sexually harassed at work. “I would like to think she would find another career or find another company if that was the case,” Trump told USA Today.

Cariaga knows what it’s like to be hassled at work. Her options weren’t so simple as leaving. “Tell that to my car payment,” she said.

Cariaga is among 100 culinary union members who have taken leave from their jobs to work for the Democratic ticket. Over the past six weeks they and other union members have knocked on 130,000 doors and had 31,000 one-on-one conversations with their fellow members of organized labor, union leaders say. Because 60 percent of Nevada’s voters cast ballots by mail, Clinton supporters want to act now to reinforce the four percentage point lead Clinton has in the RealClearPolitics average of polls.

Door-to-door, person-to-person campaigning is a necessity in a state like Nevada, especially in vote-rich Clark County, home to Las Vegas. The population is transient and hard to track. Many workers in the casinos and service industry don’t work 9-to-5 jobs. Polling is difficult and often unreliable.

The motivation for the unionized hotel workers to cast ballots is as personal — and as succinct — as the white-lettered message on the red shirts organizers were wearing: “Defeat Trump.” Workers say they are paid $3 less an hour at Trump’s Las Vegas hotel, one of the few that don’t have union workers. Even though employees there voted in December to form a union, Trump has refused to negotiate with them.

The second-floor union hall where Gebre delivered his speech is filled with anti-Trump messages, starting with the sign on the door that describes Trump as “Dangerous. Divisive. Anti-Union.” “Es imperdonable” (“Unforgivable”) is written across posters of Trump’s face that workers distribute as they go door to door. Canvassers also hand out a small red booklet featuring workers complaining about conditions at his hotel. Its title: “People Who Work for Donald Trump Are Just Like You.”

When Gebre asked how many people in the room Saturday were immigrants, nearly every hand went up. So is he. In 1983, the native Ethiopian walked 93 miles across the Sudanese desert to escape political persecution. In 1992, he became a U.S. citizen.

“This is the beauty of it: (On Nov. 8) people who look like you, who look like me, are going to tell Mr. Trump he is fired,” Gebre said.

Hotel workers are carrying that sentiment into the streets.

LAS VEGAS — Hillary Clinton has inched ahead in battleground Nevada polls not just because of what she’s done, but because of whom Republican Donald Trump has offended: the people who work at his signature hotel here and others like it on the Vegas Strip.

To many of those union waitresses, housekeepers and bartenders, this campaign is more than another political race. It’s personal. They are fighting the boss.

“We have to defeat this narcissistic, racist, sexist —hole called Donald Trump,” Tefere Gebre, executive vice president of the national AFL-CIO, said in a rousing pep talk to more than 100 union organizers Saturday inside the Culinary Workers Union Hall, with a piñata in Trump’s image wearing devil’s horns hanging nearby.

“Donald Trump is the best organizer for the Democratic Party this cycle,” said Yvanna Cancela, political director for the 57,000-member Culinary Workers Union — 90 percent of whom are the bartenders, housekeepers and cocktail servers who work on Sin City’s famous Strip; 56 percent of them are Latino. “What Clinton has done is taken advantage of the situation.”

Saturday was the first day of early in-person voting in Nevada, and union organizers kicked into high gear to get their members to cast ballots. They picked up busloads of casino workers from their job sites on their breaks, carted them to a polling location near the Strip, then handed them a box lunch to eat on the ride back to work.

While President Obama is scheduled to speak in Las Vegas on Sunday and singer Katy Perry did a photo op Saturday at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas campus, Nevada will be won with political shoe leather, not big names. And few do shoe-leather campaigning better than the Culinary Workers Union’s political operation — known as the core of retiring Sen. Harry Reid’s “Reid Machine” for years. Its formidable turnout operation is so integral to the Democratic Party’s success that “without it, Nevada would be Utah,” Gebre said.