UPDATE, 10/17/19, 4:37pm ET: the Democratic debate at Loyola Marymount University appears to be back on, after the labor dispute reached a tentative solution. UNITE HERE Local 11 announced on December 17 that they secured a tentative agreement with Sodexo, ending their strike — meaning the candidates would no longer be crossing their picket line by attending the debate. “I am thrilled that we were able to reach an agreement, and that the candidate debate can continue as scheduled,” Angela Fisher, a prep cook at Loyola Marymount University, said in a statement released by the union. “I want to thank the Democratic candidates who stood with us and the Democratic party that helped us win.”
ORIGINAL: The sixth democratic debate is just two days away. Well, maybe. All seven qualifying candidates for the December 19 event — Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer, Elizabeth Warren, and Andrew Yang — have declared that they will be boycotting the debate at Loyola Marymount University unless a union dispute at the school is resolved. The candidates all announced on December 13 that they won’t cross the picket line, and stand with the union. This, obviously, proves a problem for the DNC. With potentially no candidates, the DNC has two options that don’t seem likely in the remaining timeframe: find a new venue on two days’ notice, or resolve the labor dispute at the university.
UNITE HERE Local 11, the union representing over 150 cooks, dishwashers, servers, and cashiers at the university, said in a statement that they have yet to reach a collective-bargaining agreement with its employer, the food service subcontracting firm Sodexo. Negotiations began in March; students and protestors started striking in November. They have indicated that they will picket outside the PBS NewsHour/POLITICO debate on December 17, and the candidates all refuse to cross the picket line. “I think there is not going to be a debate so long as there remains a labor dispute,” Senator Sanders told reporters in Iowa on December 14. “I hope and expect the DNC will resolve that.”
Senator Warren, the first candidate to express support to the protestors, tweeted,”@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.” Yang tweeted, “I won’t cross the @UniteHere11 picket line to attend next week’s debate. We must live our values and there is nothing more core to the Democratic Party than the fight for working people. I support @UniteHere11 in their fight for the compensation and benefits they deserve.”
Steyer, Buttigieg, Biden, and Klobuchar also released their own statements. Xochitl Hinojosa, the DNC’s communications director, stated that DNC chairman Tom Perez’s experience as Labor secretary under former President Barack Obama could help end the strike before December 17: “Tom Perez spent the entire weekend on the phone with various stakeholders, including Sodexo, LMU and Unite Here. As a former labor secretary who handled several labor disputes, he understands the importance of getting the parties back to the table, and expects that to happen promptly.”
The DNC already moved the upcoming debate from UCLA last month after learning of a labor dispute between American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the university. All candidates are currently continuing to campaign and move forward as if the debate is still on.