WASHINGTON, D.C. — Days before the scheduled Democratic presidential debate Dec. 19 at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, there was no debate about what the seven qualifying candidates would do if the labor dispute between a food service company and school employees was not resolved by Dec. 18.

All of the candidates said they wouldn’t cross a picket line to participate in the debate and they hoped the two sides would reach an agreement. Most of the candidates announced their decision about this on Twitter Dec 13.

Members of Unite Here Local 11, representing food service employees at Loyola Marymount, in Los Angeles, have been in negotiations with the university’s food service provider, Sodexo, since March. In a Dec. 13 statement, the union said it had been unable to reach an agreement.

A statement issued that same day by the university said it is not a party to the negotiations and has encouraged Sodexo to resolve the issues raised by Local 11. The statement said that earlier that day school officials asked Sodexo to meet with union members to work out a negotiation and a solution.

“LMU is not an agent nor a joint employer of Sodexo, nor of the Sodexo employees assigned to our campus. LMU is proud to host the DNC presidential debate and is committed to ensuring that the university is a rewarding place to learn, live, and work,” it said.

The union’s Dec. 15 statement by Susan Minato, co-president of Local 11, which represents cooks, dishwashers, cashiers and servers, thanked the candidates for their show of support for Sodexo workers “fighting for a fair contract with better wages and affordable health care.” She said they hoped for continued negotiations Dec. 17 and to reach an agreement before the Dec. 19 debate.

This will be the final debate of the year; four more are scheduled for 2020.

To qualify for the debate, candidates had to reach 4 percent in four early-state or national polls or 6 percent in two early-state polls from Oct. 16 through Dec. 12, among other requirements. The seven candidates that qualified for the debate are: Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Tom Steyer, Andrew Yang and Sens. Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

A statement issued by the Democratic National Committee said its chair, Tom Perez would “absolutely not cross a picket line and would never expect our candidates to either.” It also said it was working with all parties involved to find “an acceptable resolution” that will allow the debate to continue.

Initially the debate was going to be held at the University of California, Los Angeles, but the DNC changed the venue in October due to a labor dispute at that campus.

The Dec. 19 debate is scheduled to be hosted by PBS NewsHour and Politico.

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