Talks Scheduled in Union Dispute That Could Thwart Democratic Debate


LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Labor negotiations are scheduled today that, if successful, could salvage Thursday night's scheduled Democratic presidential debate at Loyola Marymount University.

Representatives of Unite Here Local 11 -- which represents 150 “cooks, dishwashers, cashiers and servers who prepare and serve meals for LMU students, faculty and staff” -- will meet with counterparts for the subcontractor Sodexo, which has been in negotiations with the union since March over collective bargaining rights.

On Friday, all seven Democratic presidential hopefuls who qualified for next week's debate at Loyola Marymount University said they will skip the event if the labor dispute at the Westchester campus goes unresolved.

Sodexo officials could not be reached for immediate comment. DNC communications director Xochitl Hinojosa said the party is “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.”

“We want to thank the nine Democratic candidates who have expressed their support for Sodexo workers at Loyola Marymount University fighting for a fair contract with better wages and affordable healthcare,” Susan Minato, co- president of Unite Here Local 11, said Sunday. “We look forward to continuing negotiations with Sodexo this Tuesday or sooner in hopes of reaching an agreement before Thursday's Democratic debate.”

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, businessmen Andrew Yang and Tom Steyer, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg all wrote messages on Twitter saying they would not cross the union's picket line to attend the debate.

The union “is fighting for better wages and benefits -- and I stand with them,” Warren wrote on her Twitter page. “The DNC (Democratic National Committee) 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.”

On his Twitter page, Sanders wrote, “I stand with the workers of unitehere11 on campus at Loyola Marymount University fighting Sodexo for a better contract. I will not be crossing the picket line.”

Yang also said he would not cross the picket line to attend the debate.

“We must live our values and there is nothing more core to the Democratic Party than the fight for working people,” Yang wrote. “I support unitehere11 in their fight for the compensation and benefits they deserve.”

Biden wrote: “We've got to stand together with (the union) for affordable health care and fair wages. A job is about more than just a paycheck. It's about dignity.”

Steyer, meanwhile, said if the dispute its not resolved, “I will not cross the picket line. I trust the DNC will find a solution ahead of the debate, and I stand with (LMU) workers in their fight for fair wages and benefits.”

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg also vowed not to cross the line, saying, “I take the debate stage to stand up for workers' rights, not to undermine them.” Klobuchar also said she would “stand with (the union) to fight for the dignity of work.”

The debate was originally set to be held at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, but it was moved to LMU because candidates balked at going to the campus due to a separate union labor dispute there involving AFSCME Local 3299, a union representing more than 25,000 University of California service and patient technical care workers.

LMU officials issued a statement saying the university is not involved in the negotiations between Sodexo and the union, but it has contacted Sodexo and encouraged the contractor to “meet with Local 11 next week to advance negotiations and solutions.”

The debate would be hosted by PBS NewsHour and Politico, air live on PBS and be live-streamed across PBS NewsHour digital platforms and on Politico's digital and social platforms.

Photo: Getty Images

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