7 Democratic Candidates Threaten To Skip Debate Over Labor Dispute

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty.
All seven Democratic candidates who qualified for the PBS NewsHour/Politico Debate at Loyola Marymount University next week have threatened to skip it in solidarity with campus workers enmeshed in a labor dispute with the school. All of the candidates have vowed to advocate for working people. Now, it is their chance to put those words into action.
UNITE HERE Local 11, the union representing the rights of more than150 cooks, dishwashers, servers, and cashiers at the California university, said in a statement it had not reached a resolution in its collective bargaining agreement with food service subcontracting firm Sodexo. The firm is contracted by the university and in turn employs the workers who handle the school’s food service operations. Local 11 began negotiations with Sodexo in March 2019. Sodexo canceled last week’s scheduled negotiations after workers and students began protesting in November.
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The Democratic candidates expressed their support for the union and the workers it represents, collectively saying they will not cross the picket line for the debate without a solution. “We had hoped that workers would have a contract with wages and affordable health insurance before the debate next week,” Susan Minato, co-president of Local 11, said to POLITICO. “Instead, workers will be picketing when the candidates come to campus.” To help speed things along, the Democratic National Committee stepped in to work with the involved parties to find “an acceptable resolution” in the hopes that the debate will proceed undeterred. 
Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, and Bernie Sanders all tweeted their support of the union and its demands for better wages and benefits. “.@UNITEHERE11 is fighting for better wages and benefits—and I stand with them,” Warren tweeted. “The DNC should find a solution that lives up to our party's commitment to fight for working people. I will not cross the union's picket line even if it means missing the debate.”
Klobuchar, who spoke out about the protest at a roundtable with union leaders in Miami, per Politico, later echoed the comments on Twitter. “I will not cross the picket line and I will stand with @UNITEHERE11 to fight for the dignity of work,” she wrote.
Former Vice President Joe Biden also joined in, tweeting, “A job is about more than just a paycheck. It's about dignity."
Andrew Yang, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Tom Steyer, who all qualified for the debate, also spoke out in support of the union.
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This is not the first time a union-led labor protest at a university has disrupted this scheduled debate. The event was initially set to occur at the end of October at the University of California, Los Angeles. Two weeks later, the DNC was forced to make new plans when AFSCME Local 3299, the University of California’s largest employee union, demanded a boycott of all speaking engagements at the university. In response, DNC senior adviser Mary Beth Cahill encouraged media partners to seek an alternative site for the December debate.
The upcoming debate is still scheduled for December 19 and is slated to be the last televised, party-sanctioned discussion of 2019.
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