Over the past week, the sixth presidential debate was almost derailed when all seven candidates announced they would boycott the event if labor disputes between Sodexo and its LMU workers were not resolved.
While Sodexo and Unite Here Local 11 (the union representing LMU Sodexo employees) have come to an agreement and the debate is back on, the conversation around labor practices should not end. The Democratic candidates drew attention and urgency to the issue by threatening not to show, but now they have the opportunity to force the labor dispute to remain a point of national discussion.
Unite Here Local 11’s complaints about Sodexo’s working conditions were just the latest in a long history of demonstrations against the company across the world. Sodexo had been in negotiations with Unite Here Local 11 since December 2018.
Sodexo is one of the largest facility management companies in the world, with over 470,000 employees worldwide. They contract workers all over the country. Their practices have been protested by students and workers at numerous institutions all over the country. Just this year, Scripps College, Webster University, George Mason University and St. Mary’s College demonstrated against Sodexo’s alleged unfair treatment of employees.
Few of the demonstrations against Sodexo have gained attention past their campus limits, let alone on a national scale. The Democratic candidates need to use this opportunity to continue the conversation and make sure the deeply rooted issues with Sodexo are heard far and wide.
Due to the circumstances surrounding the debate, the Democratic candidates have a unique opportunity to directly discuss and address labor concerns across the country, especially with service contractors like Sodexo. They have brought national attention to the conversation by threatening to boycott, but more can be done if the candidates address their beliefs about the issue live on the debate stage.
The Democratic candidates need to please unions, a notable part of the party’s coalition, and they would do more harm than good by not taking the opportunity to call attention to the company’s malpractices.
Presidential debates are always unpacked and dissected by every media outlet out there, so directly addressing the labor issues would allow for continued discussion of the labor disputes well beyond the limited reach of Unite Here Local 11. The threat of boycotting was a respectable response to show solidarity with laborers, and it did help motivate negotiations. However, the labor dispute on LMU’s campus is just one of many, and the newfound deal is ultimately a temporary solution to an immense issue plaguing many institutions across the country.
The Democratic candidates have an obligation to call attention to the unfairness and mistreatment Sodexo employees allegedly face, and a handful of tweets won’t get the job done. To truly make an impact and ignite national support for organized laborers, the candidates must take the issue to the debate stage.
This is the opinion of Alyssa Story, a freshman film, television and media studies major from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Tweet comments @LALoyolan or email email@example.com.