Democratic debate expected to be held after unionized Loyola Marymount workers reach tentative agreement

WESTCHESTER, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A scheduled Democratic presidential debate at Loyola Marymount University is expected to proceed as planned after a tentative deal was reached Tuesday morning between a subcontractor and unionized food-service workers on campus.

All seven Democratic presidential hopefuls who qualified for Thursday's debate at the campus in Westchester threatened to skip the event, saying they would not cross the union's picket line in order to attend.

Representatives of Unite Here Local 11 - which represents 150 "cooks, dishwashers, cashiers and servers who prepare and serve meals for LMU students, faculty and staff'' - met with counterparts for the subcontractor Sodexo, which has been in negotiations with the union since March over collective bargaining rights.

The tentative three-year agreement includes a 25% wage increase, 15% drop in healthcare costs and improved job security. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and the Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perris, who was reportedly instrumental in facilitating an agreement, are expected to speak at a news conference at 1 p.m.

The debate was originally set to be held at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, but it was moved to LMU because candidates balked at going to the campus due to a separate union labor dispute there involving AFSCME Local 3299, a union representing more than 25,000 University of California service and patient technical care workers.

LMU officials issued a statement saying the university is not involved in the negotiations between Sodexo and the union, but it did contact Sodexo, encouraging the contractor to meet with Local 11 "to advance negotiations and solutions.''

Sodexo officials could not be reached for immediate comment. Union officials said picketing began on the campus in November.

On his Twitter page last week, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders wrote, "I stand with the workers of @unitehere11 on campus at Loyola Marymount University fighting Sodexo for a better contract. I will not be crossing the picket line.''

In a statement, LMU officials said the university is not involved in the negotiations but it has contacted Sodexo and encouraged the contractor to "meet with Local 11 next week to advance negotiations and solutions."

DNC communications director Xochitl Hinojosa said both the DNC and the university found out about the issue earlier Friday, but expressed support for the union and the candidates' boycott, stating that DNC Chairman "Tom Perez would absolutely not cross a picket line and would never expect our candidates to either."

"We are working with all stakeholders to find an acceptable resolution that meets their needs and is consistent with our values and will enable us to proceed as scheduled with next week's debate," she said in a statement.

The debate is slated to be hosted by PBS NewsHour and Politico, air live on PBS and be live-streamed across PBS NewsHour digital platforms and on Politico's digital and social platforms.

The Associated Press and City News Service contributed to this story.
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