Democratic debate to proceed Thursday after labor agreement reached

Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The Democratic National Committee announced Tuesday that the Democrats' next primary debate would proceed as planned this Thursday, after the party stepped in to help arrange a settlement to a labor dispute that had threatened the forum.

DNC Chair Tom Perez said in a statement that he helped “bring all stakeholders to the table ... to reach a deal that meets their needs and supports workers.” All seven of the presidential candidates who qualified for the debate at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles said late last week they would boycott the debate if it meant crossing a picket line, after a union representing workers on campus threatened to continue picketing over their failure to reach a collective bargaining agreement with food service company Sodexo.

UNITE HERE Local 11 says it represents 150 cooks, dishwashers, cashiers, and servers working on the Loyola Marymount campus. It had been in negotiations with Sodexo since March for a collective bargaining agreement without reaching a resolution, and workers began picketing in November over the issue. Perez, a former Labor Secretary under President Barack Obama, had expressed support for the candidates' decisions not to cross the picket line, and personally stepped in to help broker an agreement and avoid canceling the debate.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden, Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, environmental activist Tom Steyer and businessman Andrew Yang have all qualified to appear at Thursday night's debate.


The lineup is a blow to New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, who launched a late six-figure digital and radio advertising push to hit the polling threshold to make the debate, but failed to win the 4% support needed in any qualifying surveys. He and former Housing Secretary Juli á n Castro - the only Latino candidate in the field, who also failed to make the debate - have been outspoken critics of the DNC for a process they say has disadvantaged minority candidates by emphasizing small-dollar donors, who tend to be overwhelmingly white, older and well-off.

While California Sen. Kamala Harris, one of just two other African American candidates in the field, qualified for the December debate, she dropped out of the race last week because of fundraising struggles. Andrew Yang is the only minority candidate who made the stage.

This is the second location site set to host the December debate. In October, the DNC announced it wouldn’t be holding a debate at the University of California, Los Angeles because of “concerns raised by the local organized labor community” and was moving the event to Loyola Marymount.


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