Democrats threaten to skip LA debate over union dispute

South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said they wouldn't cross a picket line to participate in Thursday's debate at Loyola Marymount University. Photo by Tami Chappell/UPI

Dec. 14 (UPI) — Several Democratic candidates for president threatened Friday to skip next week’s debate at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles in response to a union dispute at the school.

The Unite Here Local 11 union, which represents some 150 cooks, dishwashers, cashiers and servers at the school, is involved in contract negotiations with Sodexo, the company that runs Loyola Marymount’s food service.

Collective bargaining negotiations began in March, and workers and students began picketing at the school in November.

“We had hoped that workers would have a contract with wages and affordable health insurance before the debate next week,” said Susan Minato, co-president of Local 11. “Instead, workers will be picketing when the candidates come to campus.”

Several of the candidates expected to participate in Thursday’s debate said they wouldn’t cross the picket line.

Unite Here Local 11 “is fighting for better wages and benefits — and I stand with them,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., tweeted. The 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.”

“We’ve got to stand together with @UniteHere11 for affordable health care and fair wages. A job is about more than just a paycheck. It’s about dignity,” former Vice President Joe Biden added.

The five other candidates who qualified for the debate — South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, philanthropist Tom Steyer and entrepreneur Andrew Yang — also agreed not to cross the picket line. Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro also expressed support for the union, though he didn’t qualify for the debate.

The Los Angeles debate has already been moved once — from UCLA to Loyola Marymount — after a contract dispute involving the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees.


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