Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren Threaten to Ditch Debate over Labor Dispute

Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A pair of top-tier 2020 Democrat candidates are threatening not to participate in next week’s presidential primary debate in Los Angeles as a labor dispute embroils the campus set to host the event.

Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) both said Friday that they would not cross the picket lines of Loyola Marymount University employees to enter the sixth debate, co-hosted by PBS NewsHour and Politico, next Thursday.

“I stand with the workers of @UniteHere11 on campus at Loyola Marymount University fighting Sodexo for a better contract,” Sanders wrote on Twitter. “I will not be crossing their picket line.”

“@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,” Warren tweeted. “I will not cross the union’s picket line even if it means missing the debate.”

UNITE HERE Local 11, a labor union which represents over 100 food service staff at the college, said it has thus far failed to reach a collective bargaining agreement with Sodexo, a France-based catering and facilities management corporation.

“The Local 11 began talks with Sodexo in March, but said the company last week canceled scheduled contract negotiations after workers and students began picketing on campus in November,” a Sodexo spokesperson said in a statement obtained by Politico.

It is unclear whether both parties will strike a deal before the debate.

Other 2020 candidates, including former Vice President Joe Biden, have not publically said whether they would join Sanders and Warren in skipping the debate.

The debate was originally scheduled to take place at UCLA, but was moved following a request from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees over an ongoing labor dispute.

Update: Biden, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and others have threatened to ditch the debate unless the labor dispute is resolved before Thursday. 

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