The show will go on: The seventh Democratic presidential primary debate will happen as planned, on Thursday (December 19) at Loyola Marymount University (LMU) in Los Angeles, California.
As KTLA reported, the event's fate was up in the air late last week, after the food service company Sodexo cancelled a negotiation meeting with the members of Unite Here Local 11, who have been formally advocating for better treatment by the subcontractor for months; their prior contract expired at the end of March. The union then sent letters to the candidates slated to attend the event, noting that they planned to picket that day. Soon after, every Democratic presidential candidate who had qualified for December's primary debate said they would not cross the picket line.
On Tuesday (December 17), Unite Here Local 11 announced they had reached a tentative agreement with the food service giant, aided by the Democratic National Committee. Per a statement provided by the union, the new contract will be valid for three years, and includes a 25 percent pay raise, cutting healthcare costs in half, and more job security for one of the most vital groups of workers on the LMU campus.
In a statement, prep cook Angela Fisher said, “I am thrilled that we were able to reach an agreement, and that the candidate debate can continue as scheduled. I want to thank the Democratic candidates who stood with us and the Democratic party that helped us win.” Fisher previously told the Los Angeles Times that she became homeless while working for Sodexo, and that she was heartened by the candidates' show of solidarity.
Before the agreement was reached, LMU's college paper, the Loyolan, interviewed Sodexo workers about the issues they faced on the job. (The university hires the company as a subcontractor for its food service.) "I do a thousand different things," Rosa Ojeda, a prep cook, told the paper. "There are times that I get frustrated. I've cried before from the stress." She also said that she had to choose between healthcare coverage or paying her rent.
Plenty of LMU students have tweeted in solidarity with the workers, whom they noted help the private university of around 9,300 students feel "like home."
Unite Here Local 11 represented around 150 workers; per the American Prospect, the DNC selected LMU as the location for the debate after workers at University of California Los Angeles also threatened a boycott. The school's paper, the Daily Bruin, ran an editorial in November that held the University of California system responsible for the shift.