Democratic presidential hopefuls threaten to boycott debate at Loyola Marymount over union dispute

WESTCHESTER, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- All seven Democratic presidential hopefuls who qualified for next week's debate at Loyola Marymount University are threatening to skip the event.

The candidates say will they pull out of the scheduled debate next Thursday if a labor dispute with unionized food-service workers at the campus in Westchester is not resolved before then.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, businessmen Andrew Yang and Tom Steyer, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg all wrote messages on Twitter saying they would not cross the union's picket line in order to attend.

The union, UNITE HERE Local 11 union, is fighting for higher wages and improved benefits for 150 "cooks, dishwashers, cashiers and servers who prepare and serve meals for LMYU students, faculty and staff."

According to the union, the workers are employed by the subcontractor Sodexo, which has been in negotiations with Local 11 since March. The union claims the company abruptly canceled scheduled contract negotiations last week.''

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

On his Twitter page, 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 Associated Press contributed to this report.
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