vision 2020

Second Labor Dispute Roils Los Angeles Democratic Debate

Democrats don’t want an empty stage in a venue surrounded by a picket line. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

When it was announced that the sixth Democratic primary debate would be held in Los Angeles, the initial venue was supposed to be UCLA. But a simmering labor dispute involving the university and a local chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) led the Democratic National Committee to change the debate site to a different university, Loyola Marymount.

But now an unrelated labor dispute between a Unite Here chapter and a food-services contractor (Sodexo) for Loyola Marymount has led to an announcement of picket lines around the December 19 debate site, and a series of statements by candidates — now including all seven who have qualified for the event — that they’ll boycott the debate if it’s held there. The dispute involves “150 cooks, dishwashers, cashiers, and servers who prepare and serve meals for LMU students, faculty, and staff,” notes the local CBS affiliate.

Democratic presidential candidates do not cross union picket lines. One who famously did, former Florida governor Reuben Askew (who ran for president in 1984) lived to regret it. The Washington Post memorialized the moment:

Askew crossed a union’s picket line at a hotel built by nonunion workers to attend the dedication of a garden named for former mayor C. Richard Stanton, one of Askew’s key New Hampshire supporters.

He finished eighth out of eight candidates in New Hampshire that year.

You’d think the DNC (or the media sponsors of the Los Angeles event, PBS NewsHour and Politico) could have vetted the venues a bit more thoroughly and avoided this embarrassing situation. Fortunately, they have six days to find a third spot (barring a quick resolution of the Unite Here–Sodexo dispute). To make certain sure they don’t just screw it up again, I would recommend a union hall.

Second Labor Dispute Roils Los Angeles Democratic Debate