Dec 16, 2019

Inside the DNC cleanup to save the debate

Tom Perez on MSNBC's "Meet The Press." Photo: William B. Plowman/NBC/NBC Newswire/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez spent over 20 hours on the phone this weekend trying to save Thursday's debate from crumbling, per a source familiar, after a labor dispute prompted the presidential candidates to threaten a boycott.

Why it matters: The DNC already switched the venue once because of another labor dispute, and it would be nearly impossible to find a new location now.

  • Internally, Democrats are hopeful a deal will be made today or tomorrow — and some DNC staffers are already heading to Los Angeles this afternoon.

The backstory: Democrats think Perez is the best positioned to get a deal done in part because he was labor secretary under Barack Obama.

  • Perez led the weekend negotiations, calling leaders from UNITE HERE Local 11 — a labor union that represents more than 32,000 hospitality workers in Southern California and Arizona — and Sodexo, the company that employs those workers and handles food service operations for Loyola Marymount University.
  • The union is angry about "stalled contract negotiations for food service workers at LMU," per an advisory letter sent out last week.

In an internal DNC meeting Monday, with a small group of surrogates to discuss the upcoming debate, Perez "made it clear he's been working the phones constantly," according to a source in the room. The source added there's no guarantee on the timeline of settling this, but described the mood as "upbeat" and "positive."

The big picture: Democrats have been zeroing in on labor unions throughout this presidential primary, recognizing their power as a voting bloc.

  • Several Democratic candidates attended the Teamsters presidential forum earlier this month in Iowa, and others attended the Service Employees International Union presidential forum in October. 

Be smart: Historically, members of labor unions have been white working-class men — a decisive voting bloc for Trump's 2016 victory and one that Democrats have been laser-focused on winning back ever since. (That demographic has changed over the years, with black workers making up a larger share than white workers.)

  • While Trump trailed Hillary Clinton by only 8 points among households with a union member, that was the best margin for a Republican presidential candidate since 1984, per the Washington Post.
  • For context, Obama won union households by 18 percentage points in the 2012 election against Mitt Romney. 
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