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Howard Stutz

Former Culinary boss says unions oppose Obama's Commerce Secretary nominee

21 May 2013

LAS VEGAS -- It didn’t take former Culinary Workers Local 226 boss D. Taylor very long to make his entrance onto the national stage.

Taylor, who became president of 270,000-member UNITE HERE, the Culinary’s parent organization, last year, said organized labor will oppose President Barack Obama’s nominee for Commerce Secretary, Penny Pritzker.

Pritzker’s family controls the Hyatt Hotels chain, which has been hit with unfair labor practices charges by the hotel and restaurant workers union.

Taylor told the New York Daily News the union was upset because the Senate Commerce Committee was moving up its confirmation hearing for Pritzker. The union thought the hearing would take place after the Memorial Day weekend.

"We are opposed to the nomination of Penny Pritzker based on what has taken place at Hyatt," Taylor told the newspaper.

UNITE HERE had disputes with the hotel chain date since 2009. Contracts expired at unionized Hyatt hotels and the outsourced previously unionized housekeeper positions at hotels in Boston and Baltimore. The union has also alleged worker safety issues.

Taylor was elected head of UNITE HERE after serving as secretary-treasurer of the 60,000-member Culinary, the organization’s largest affiliate, since in 2002.

Taylor, who is leading the Culinary’s current citywide contract negotiations, has been at the forefront of the Strip's labor movement for more than 25 years.

Taylor largely kept labor peace on the Strip during his years as secretary-treasurer, but the union had a heavy influence on local elections, predominantly for Democrats. The union's voter registration and turnout operations contributed much to the party's successes.

In 2008, Taylor led the Culinary’s surprise endorsement of Obama over Hillary Clinton in the Democratic caucus. The move divided the union but didn’t carry Obama to victory.