Democrats say they won't cross picket line over union conflict at debate host site

Rebecca Morin, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – All of the Democratic presidential candidates slated to attend next week’s primary debate may skip it due to ongoing local union negotiations at Loyola Marymount University, the site of the debate. 

Unite Here Local 11, which represents 150 cooks, dishwashers, cashiers, and servers at the university, will picket next Thursday ahead of the debate and called on candidates to not cross the picket line.

Every candidate who has qualified for the debate — former Vice President Joe Biden; Sens. Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren; South Bend, Indiana; Mayor Pete Buttigieg; and entrepreneurs Tom Steyer and Andrew Yang — said they will not cross the picket line. 

“I won't be crossing a picket line,” Biden wrote in a tweet. “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.”

Local 11 has been in negotiations since March for a collective bargaining agreement with Sodexo, a global services company that is subcontracted by Loyola Marymount University for food service operations and hires the workers. However, a resolution has yet to be reached.

More: Tulsi Gabbard says she will skip the December Democratic debate

Last month, students and workers began picketing on campus over the stalled negotiations. Sodexo last week canceled scheduled contract negotiations, according to Local 11.

Susan Minato, Co-President of UNITE HERE Local 11, said in a statement that the union “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,” she said in the statement.

The Democratic National Committee last month switched their location from the University of California, Los Angeles, in support of the university's union that has imposed a boycott.

The DNC 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,” DNC spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa said a tweet Friday.

”Tom Perez would absolutely not cross a picket line and would never expect our candidates to either,” she wrote in the tweet. 

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: December debate: Biden, Sanders, Warren may skip debate over union conflict