The Slatest

Democratic Candidates Threaten to Skip Debate Over Labor Dispute

Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks as former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders listen during the Democratic Presidential Debate at Tyler Perry Studios November 20, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks as former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders listen during the Democratic Presidential Debate at Tyler Perry Studios November 20, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

All seven Democratic candidates who have qualified for next week’s debate threatened to skip it while they expressed support for workers embroiled in a contract dispute at Loyola Marymount University. UNITE HERE Local 11 sent a letter to the Democratic presidential campaigns Friday informing them of the ongoing dispute involving Sodexho, which LMU subcontracts for its food service operations. The union represents 150 workers and has been in negotiations since March for a collective bargaining agreement. “We had hoped that workers would have a contract with wages and affordable health insurance before the debate next week. Instead, workers will be picketing when the candidates come to campus,” said Susan Minato, Co-President of UNITE HERE Local 11.

All the presidential candidates said they would not cross a picket line to participate in the debate that is being co-hosted by PBS NewsHour and Politico. The first one to express support for the union was Sen. Elizabeth Warren. “I will not cross the union’s picket line even if it means missing the debate,” she tweeted. The other six candidates—Sens. Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar, former Vice President Joe Biden, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, entrepreneur Andrew Yang and billionaire activist Tom Steyer—all followed suit.

The Democratic National Committee had moved the debate to LMU from its previous location at the University of California, Los Angeles due to a labor dispute there. Now the DNC says it only just learned about the dispute at LMU and said that the group’s chairman, Tom Perez, “would absolutely not cross a picket line and would never expect our candidates to either.” Sodexho said that it is “committed to reaching an agreement” and emphasized that “any statement that we have left the bargaining table is not accurate.”