Qualifying Democrats say they will not participate in the December debate


Elizabeth Warren led the Democratic candidates in supporting UNITE HERE! Local 11.

The Democratic debates are supposed to be a big moment for candidates to appeal to voters. Big-name politicians like Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden can speak directly to their large group of supporters and lesser-known candidates, such as Tom Steyer, have a chance to get their name out there. However, at this upcoming December debate, the stage is predicted to be empty. 

This is all because of UNITE HERE! Local 11. The Los Angeles labor union is currently in a food service dispute with Loyola Marymount University, where the December debate is set to be hosted. LMU subcontracts with a company called Sodexo, which has been in an unresolved conflict with Local 11 since March. 

On Dec. 14, LMU issued a statement, saying that “LMU is not a party to the negotiations between Sodexo and UNITE HERE Local 11,” but that the university “encouraged and continues to encourage” the company to meet with Local 11 and resolve their problems. 

Local 11 sent a letter to each of the presidential candidates, informing them of the conflict. 

Upon receiving her letter from Local 11, Elizabeth Warren announced her support for the union and said that she would not participate in the debate if she had to cross picket lines. The six other candidates followed her lead, issuing almost identical statements to Twitter. 

This dispute comes after the debate was moved from its previous location at the University of California due to a dispute between a local union and the university.  

I think the labor union’s scheduled protest caused such a strong reaction from the candidates because many of the past debates have centered heavily on the topic of health care. I also think that this is mainly an attempt to save face. If Elizabeth Warren skips the debate to protest, how does that make everyone else look? And while this is good press for Warren, Bernie and Biden, it maybe isn’t as good for the smaller-name candidates who do need the air time. 

However, the conflict with Local 11 is not the only issue candidates have had with the debate. Cory Booker is the lead advocate of the eight candidates who did not qualify for the December debate. He says that the restrictive criteria has led to a lack of diversity on the debate stage. The seven qualifying candidates all signed on in support of Booker’s statement as well. However, the DNC does not seem to want to budge. 

This leads to the question, are debates really worth it? They can help in the beginning, when candidates are trying to introduce themselves to voters, but after that it just seems all-around destructive, especially when there are 10 plus people trying to get a word in. My main problem with the debates is that candidates seem to fill time by attacking their fellow democrats plans and digging up dirt from the past. While I know that this is a normal part of politics, it is extremely divisive and certainly does not help the Democrats in their plan to beat Donald Trump in 2020. 

It will be interesting to see how the DNC will respond to the boycott on the December debate. While they are unlikely to budge on the requirements necessary to qualify for the debate, I wonder if the committee will try and accommodate Local 11, or perhaps even meet the candidates at the “picket line” the seven politicians have vowed not to cross. 

Thanks for reading, and check back next week for another update on the 2020 election.