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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. 

Go deeper

Updated 43 mins ago - Politics & Policy

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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: Fall and winter COVID surge "unlikely" if people get vaccinated.
  2. Politics: School boards are the next political battleground.
  3. Vaccines: Pfizer begins application for full FDA vaccine approval — Moderna says its COVID booster shot shows promise against variants.
  4. Economy: U.S. adds just 266,000 jobs in April, far below expectations.
  5. World: Asia faces massive new COVID surgeIndia records its deadliest day of the pandemic.
  6. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.

Kevin McCarthy officially endorses Elise Stefanik to replace Liz Cheney

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) officially endorsed Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) to become the GOP's next House Republican conference chair during a Fox News appearance Sunday.

Why it matters: The GOP has been feuding internally over the fate of the current chair, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), because of her criticisms of former President Donald Trump, and her vote to impeach him for his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

Fauci: Vaccines could turn COVID-19 "surges" into "blips"

NIAID director Anthony Fauci told "Meet the Press" Sunday that if more Americans get vaccinated in accordance with the Biden administration's goals, COVID-19 surges may be replaced by "blips."

State of play: Last week President Joe Biden announced his goal to get 160 million Americans fully vaccinated by July 4, with at least 70% of Americans having at least one shot.