2020 Democrats Threaten to Skip Upcoming Presidential Debate

All of the Democratic presidential contenders who qualified for the Dec. 19 debate said they will not attend if a labor dispute at the venue isn’t resolved.

Unionized workers at Loyola Marymount University in Las Vegas are in a labor dispute with Sodexo, a food services company. The union representing the workers said on Dec. 13 that “the leading contenders for the Democratic nomination will be greeted with picket lines” at the university.

The union Unite Here Local 11 is representing some 150 cooks, dishwashers, and other workers who prepare and serve meals for students and staff at the university under subcontractor Sodexo, with which it is negotiating 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 the union, in a statement.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said Dec. 13 they would skip the debate if the dispute was still happening on Dec. 19 and were soon joined by the five other candidates who made the stage. The candidates said the Democratic National Committee (DNC) should figure out what to do.

“@UniteHere11 is fighting for better wages and benefits—and I stand with them. 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,” Warren said in a statement on Dec. 13.

Sanders issued a similar sentiment less than an hour later, followed by entrepreneur Andrew Yang, former Vice President Joe Biden, billionaire Tom Steyer, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).

A DNC spokesperson said that the committee was looking into the issue because Tom Perez, the chairman, wouldn’t want the candidates to have to cross a picket line.

“While L.M.U. is not a party to the negotiations between Sodexo and UNITE HERE Local 11, Tom Perez would absolutely not cross a picket line and would never expect our candidates to either,” spokesperson Xochitl Hinojosa said in a statement sent to news outlets.

“We are working with all stakeholders to find an acceptable resolution that meets their needs and is consistent with our values and will enable us to proceed as scheduled with next week’s debate,” she added.

The debate was originally slated to be held at the University of California–Los Angeles but was shifted to Nevada because the university’s union is working on getting a new contract and called on campaigns to boycott the debate if it wasn’t moved.

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber
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