Democratic Debate Expected To Go On After Tentative Deal Reached In Labor Dispute

The presidential candidates promised to honor a picket line if a local union went forward with it.

A labor dispute that threatened to upend Thursday’s presidential debate is set to be resolved, meaning that the final face-off of 2019 is set to go forward. 

Last week, Unite Here Local 11 notified the Democratic presidential candidates that contract negotiations with Sodexo had broken down, and that without a resolution, they would be picketing the debate at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

LMU has a contract with Sodexo for its food service operations. Unite Here Local 11 represents 150 cooks, dishwashers, cashiers and servers employed by Sodexo who prepare and serve meals for students and university employees.

All seven of the candidates who have qualified for the debate promised to respect the picket line and not attend the debate, if need be.

But on Thursday, the Democratic National Committee notified the presidential campaigns that there is a tentative agreement between Sodexo and the union, and a vote will occur later Tuesday morning.

“As Democrats, we know the fight for fair wages is about more than just dollars; it’s about dignity. It’s not about sound bites; it’s about real solutions,” DNC Chair Tom Perez said in a statement. “That’s what we were able to achieve today ― a real solution for hardworking Americans. We are the party that lifts up working families and defends the right to organize, and we’re excited to showcase that commitment at our debate on Thursday at Loyola Marymount University.”

A Sodexo spokesman also confirmed the progress.

“We are pleased to confirm that, after many months of continuous negotiations, we have reached a tentative agreement with UNITE HERE Local 11 on behalf of Sodexo employees at Loyola Marymount University,” the spokesman said, adding that “we are very happy our positive working relationship can continue with improved benefits and wages for our employees on the campus of LMU.”

The contract agreement includes a 25% increase in compensation, a 50% drop in health care costs and increases in workers’ job security, according to a statement from the union.

“I am thrilled that we were able to reach an agreement, and that the candidate debate can continue as scheduled,” said Angela Fisher, a prep cook at LMU. “I want to thank the Democratic candidates who stood with us and the Democratic party that helped us win.”

Perez was actively involved in bringing an end to the dispute so that the debate could go on, holding phone calls with the key stakeholders over the past few days to figure out an agreement. He was President Barack Obama’s labor secretary and worked on several labor disputes during his time in the administration. On Sunday, he brought LMU and Unite Here Local 11 together for a meeting, and on Monday, the union and Sodexo met.