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. 

Go deeper

Tentative deal announced in labor dispute that threatened Democratic debate

A scene from the November debate. Photo: Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post via Getty Images

A tentative deal was announced Tuesday in a labor dispute between unionized food service workers at Los Angeles' Loyola Marymount University and their employer Sodexo that threatened to derail this week's 2020 Democratic debate.

Why it matters, via Axios' Alexi McCammond: Democrats have been zeroing in on labor unions throughout this presidential primary, recognizing their power as a voting bloc — and the Democratic National Committee had already switched the debate venue once because of another labor dispute, making it nearly impossible to find a new location.

Go deeper: Inside the DNC cleanup to save the debate

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LOS ANGELES — Two big developments playing out this week will hang over tonight's debate: President Trump's impeachment and a contentious labor union dispute that nearly canceled tonight's gathering.

Why it matters: Both dynamics could shake up the final Democratic presidential debate of 2019, which comes at a pivotal time as the top contenders jockey for position ahead of the Iowa caucuses in February, and as other campaigns consider if and how to hang on.

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