Tentative Deal Reached in Union Dispute That Threatened to Shut Down Dem Debate

DNC chair Tom Perez addresses attendees before the start of the second night of the second U.S. 2020 presidential Democratic candidates debate in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., July 31, 2019. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

The Democratic primary debate will take place as planned on Thursday following a tentative agreement in a labor dispute that threatened to derail the event at the last minute.

Negotiators with a union representing cafeteria workers announced they have reached a tentative deal with a food services company at Loyola Marymount University, where the debate will be hosted.

All seven Democratic 2020 candidates who qualified for the debate had pledged to boycott rather than cross the union’s picket line if there was a strike at the university on debate night, throwing the plans for the high-profile event into disarray. The union warned there could be picketing the evening of the debate if a deal was not reached.

“The Democratic National Committee and Tom Perez worked hard to help bring the situation to a positive resolution,” the Unite Here Local 11 union said in a statement.

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Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez negotiated on the phone over the weekend with the union, the university, the food services provider Sodexo, and local officials to reach the tentative agreement. The conflict involved about 150 workers.

“I was proud to help bring all stakeholders to the table … to reach a deal that meets their needs and supports workers,” Perez said Tuesday.

Senator Elizabeth Warren was the first to threaten to boycott the debate in support of the local union, saying in a tweet that the workers are “fighting for better wages and benefits—and I stand with them … even if it means missing the debate.”

“I think there is not going to be a debate so long as there remains a labor dispute,” Senator Bernie Sanders added.

The other candidates who qualified for the debate are frontrunner and former vice president Joe Biden, Senator Amy Klobuchar, billionaire Tom Steyer, businessman Andrew Yang, and South Bend, Ind. mayor Pete Buttigieg.

Democratic 2020 candidates have been vocal on the campaign trail in their support for unions across the country, sometimes protesting with striking workers.

The last Democratic primary debate of the year, hosted by PBS NewsHour and Politico, is set to begin at 8 p.m ET on Thursday.

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