As the hospitality workers' union Unite Here Local 11 said that next week's Democratic presidential debate could be threatened by stalled contract negotiations for workers at Loyola Marymount University, which is hosting the debate, Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders led the Democratic field in announcing they would be on the side of the workers if a deal is not reached in the coming days.
Warren tweeted early Friday afternoon that she would "not cross the union's picket line even if it means missing the debate," and Sanders tweeted a similar message shortly after, with a CBS reporter then confirming Sanders was also willing to miss the debate next Thursday in order to support university workers.
.@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.
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) December 13, 2019
I stand with the workers of @UniteHere11 on campus at Loyola Marymount University fighting Sodexo for a better contract. I will not be crossing their picket line.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) December 13, 2019
After Warren and Sanders announced their support, other presidential candidates—including businessman Andrew Yang, former Vice President Joe Biden, and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg—also said they would not be crossing the picket line next Thursday.
The debate was originally set to take place at UCLA but was moved to Loyola Marymount (LMU), which is also located in Los Angeles, after unions boycotted the event due to another labor dispute.
Now, Unite Here Local 11 said Friday, "the leading contenders for the Democratic nomination will be greeted with picket lines at their replacement venue."
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"We had hoped that workers would have a contract with wages and affordable health insurance before the debate next week," said union co-president Susan Minato. "Instead, workers will be picketing when the candidates come to campus."
At LMU, the union represents 150 dishwashers, cooks, cashiers, and servers who are subcontractors employed by the global company Sodexo. The union has been in negotiations with Sodexo since March, demanding higher hourly wages than the $14.40 the workers currently earn, in the 12th most expensive city in the United States.
After Warren and Sanders led the way in expressing support for the LMU workers, labor leaders and supporters praised the senators for "clearly defining which side" they are on.
The way to get results is to define the problem, state clearly what you’re willing to do to rectify it, and injecting urgency. Thanks @ewarren for clearly defining which side you’re on and what you’re willing to do alongside @UNITEHERE11 to fight for what’s right! Good plan. https://t.co/QbrPVmltaB
— Sara Nelson (@FlyingWithSara) December 13, 2019