The American electorate may be on the receiving end of an early Christmas present as the entire field of Democratic presidential wannabes that made the grade are boycotting their own December 19 debate. After months of pandering for press and polling numbers and increasing amounts of individual donors, a simple labor dispute has the field tweeting out their collective disgust at the battle taking place at the scheduled venue, Loyola Marymount University.
The issue is simple. No self-identifying Democrat will cross the picket line and snub UNITE HERE Local 11, the union representing cooks, dishwashers, cashiers, and servers – employed by global services company Sodexo – who toil away for Loyola Marymount University (LMU) students, faculty, and staff. In an ongoing – as in seemingly never ending – heated battle, UNITE HERE Local 11 is going toe-to-toe with Sodexo for increased wages and benefits.
What better stage to force Sodexo to their negotiating knees than the Democratic primary debate? Of course, everyone from LMU, UNITE HERE, and the Democratic National Committee – who had to move this tired sixth debate locale from UCLA to LMU over another labor dispute – is in a tizzy.
What’s the Deal?
Since early last spring, Local 11 has been in negotiations on a collective bargaining agreement with Sodexo – a subcontractor by Loyola Marymount University for foodservice operations and human resources, such as vetting and hiring workers on campus. But as negotiations between labor and corporate America rarely are an easy feat, there is no such resolution in the near future – namely by debate time. A picket line with all eyes on the not so magnificent seven who have qualified is an optic Local 11 would be foolish to pass up.
They didn’t waste a moment: One week out and Local 11 has a picket line ready to roll, daring the Dems to cross it.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) was the first to raise her Twitter fist in solidarity: “Unite Here 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.”
And then everyone else rushed to make the same pledge. Former Vice President Joe Biden said, “A job is about more than just a paycheck. It’s about dignity.”
Don’t you just feel warm and fuzzy inside now?
Susan Minato, Co-President of UNITE HERE Local 11, issued a public statement that seemed to mean more for the DNC. She said she “hoped that workers would have a contract with wages and affordable health insurance before the debate next week,” before adding the “or else” of a picket line.
DNC spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa tweeted the official party stance:
“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. Tom Perez would absolutely not cross a picket line and would never expect our candidates to either.”
Oh Please, Oh Please
As America readies for a holiday fraught with uncertainty, thanks to the actions of Congress, the Dems face yet another problem in getting a clear message to the electorate. Will the big day be lights out for the struggling field of candidates? Does anyone even tune in anymore for the debates?
This sixth weeding of candidates – if it happens at all – will be the first to be held in California before the state’s March 3, 2020, primary election. It’s a big deal to be in the state yammering about climate change, free stuff, and deflating the bad orange man to potential voters. Perhaps Tom Perez, the chair of the listing DNC ship, can use his experience as former President Barack Obama’s Secretary of Labor and get the job done. But I’d wager that America hopes the picket goes off and the debate doesn’t.
Read more from Sarah Cowgill.