This is due to a labor dispute between the UNITE HERE Local 11 union and the Sodexo food supplier that serves the university where the event is scheduled on December 19; the candidates pledged to respect the effort of the workers to reach a solution before Thursday

Just days from the next debate (December 19) of Democratic presidential candidates at Loyola Marymount University (LMU), this could be empty and it is not for lack of interest of the seven candidates who qualified to participate.

This is due to a labor dispute between the UNITE HERE Local 11 union and the food service provider Sodexo. Local 11 represents 150 chefs, dishwashers, cashiers and waiters who prepare and serve meals for students, teachers and LMU staff.

Talks for a new employment contract began in March, but no agreement has been reached to date. It is expected that this Tuesday there will be an answer during the next negotiation.

However, all the presidential candidates promised not to cross a picket line if there were one on the day of the debate.

In a message via Twitter, Senator Elizabeth Warren was the first to show her support. She said Local 11 is fighting for better wages and benefits for her workers and she supports them.

"The (National Democratic Committee) should find a solution that lives up to our party's commitment to fight for workers," said the senator. "I will not cross the union picket line, even if that means missing the debate."

The favorite candidate of many Californians, Bernie Sanders, continued to support workers publicly:

“I am with the @ UniteHere11 workers on the Loyola Marymount University campus fighting against Sodexo for a better contract. I will not cross your picket line, ”Sanderes said on his Twitter account.

The negotiations were abruptly canceled last week after workers and student activists began a picket line on campus.

"We expected workers to have a contract with affordable salaries and health insurance before this week's debate," Susan Minato, co-president of UNITE HERE Local 11, said in a statement.

But since that has not happened, the workers threaten to picket the day of the debate with the Democratic candidates, if they arrive at the building.

The candidates who qualified for the next debate are seven; Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, Tom Steyer, Andrew Yang and Amy Klobuchar. While Tulsi Gabbard said he would not participate, qualify or not, because he did not consider the debates effective so that candidates could clearly explain their positions to the American public.

The most affected

Among the workers affected is Angela Fischer, who works as a cook at LMU and said she earns only 15 cents more than the minimum wage in Los Angeles.

"That's not enough to keep a roof over my head," said Fischer. “I love working at Loyola Marymount University, and I am proud that my workplace is scheduled to organize the debate. But Sodexo needs to go back to the negotiating table and settle this contract. ”

Another of them is Mrs. Rosa Ojeda, 62, who said she was hired three years ago as a food preparer. However, the lack of staff and high need for workers have forced her to fill different positions herself, including cook and cashier.

“I earn $ 14.40 an hour and pay a thousand dollars of rent. I live alone and for me this is a lot of stress in thinking about how I am going to pay my rent and buy my food, ”said the Guatemalan.

For this reason, she accompanied a delegation of activists and workers on Monday afternoon to ask for the support of the president of LMU.

María Hernández, spokesperson for Local 11, said that although they were unable to speak with LMU President Timothy Law Snyder, they spoke with their communications representative and asked for support.

“We want him to demonstrate his values, the values ​​of the university to fight for the family and the just,” said Hernández. "Because now reality is different."

LMU outsources its food service operations to the global services company Sodexo, which employs these workers.

Because since March no agreement has been reached, workers and students began picketing on campus in November to express their concern for a fair agreement. Then the company abruptly canceled the contractual negotiations scheduled last week. After pressure from the National Democratic Party, the company agreed to resume negotiations this week.

Minato thanked the candidates for publicly expressing their support for Sodexo workers at LMU, who fight for what they consider a fair contract with better salaries and affordable medical care.

"We hope to continue negotiations with Sodexo on Tuesday or earlier in the hope of reaching an agreement before Thursday's Democratic debate," said Minato.

The Opinion tried to get a response from Sodexo but there were none at the end of this edition.


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