Union reaches agreement, Democratic debate to proceed as scheduled

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The California union at the center of a labor dispute that threatened Thursday’s 2020 primary debate on Tuesday announced that a deal has been struck to allow the event to proceed as scheduled at Loyola Marymount University.

Unite Here Local 11, which represents 150 cooks, dishwashers, cashiers and servers associated with the university, announced an agreement with Sodexo, which had canceled contract negotiations for a collective bargaining agreement with the union.

Sodexo has a contract with the school for food service operations.

Thursday’s debate was thrust into jeopardy after all seven Democratic presidential candidates who had qualified for the event vowed to not cross the union’s picket line as the primary field jostles for support from labor groups.

The new contract provides a three-year deal that includes a 25 percent increase in compensation, a 50 percent drop in health care costs, and “increases workers’ job security,” Unite Here Local 11 said in a statement. 

“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 Loyola Marymount University. “I want to thank the Democratic candidates who stood with us and the Democratic Party that helped us win.” 

The drama began to unfold last week after Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) vowed to stand up for the union’s demands. They were soon followed by the remaining candidates who had made it to the debate stage. 

“[Unite Here Local 11] is fighting for better wages and benefits — and I stand with them,” Warren, who was the first to issue a statement on the issue, said. “The [Democratic National Committee] 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.”

The DNC hailed the agreement to allow the debate to continue. An official told The Hill the deal was struck after DNC Chairman Tom Perez, a former Labor secretary, spent days on the phone with Sodexo, Unite Here Local 11 and Loyola Marymount University.

“Every worker deserves fair wages and benefits. That’s why I was proud to help bring all stakeholders to the table, including UNITE HERE Local 11, Sodexo, and Loyola Marymount University, to reach a deal that meets their needs and supports workers,” Perez said in a statement. 

“I commend Sodexo and UNITE HERE for coming together in good faith to forge an agreement that is a win-win for everyone, and I appreciate the constructive engagement of LMU leadership which was indispensable to the resolution of this negotiation.”

Tags Bernie Sanders Democratic debates Elizabeth Warren labor agreement Loyola Marymount University Tom Perez Union

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