LOS ANGELES—The workers represented by
union had reached an impasse in negotiations with food-services provider Sodexo. So Ms. Sulkes and her team turned to the 2020 field, announcing in mid-December that the union would picket outside the coming Democratic debate at Loyola Marymount University.
Candidates reacted quickly, surprising Ms. Sulkes and union leaders during a morning meeting. By the end of the day, all seven candidates who were set to appear said they would skip the debate rather than cross Unite Here Local 11’s picket line. The Democratic National Committee stepped in, helping broker a labor agreement a few days later that included pay increases and better job security.
“People who we didn’t necessarily expect or assume would basically say they would not cross a picket line, even if it meant they would not appear on stage,” said Ms. Sulkes, the communications director for the union, which represents more than 30,000 hospitality workers in Arizona and Southern California. “It just took off in a way that I don’t think any of us anticipated at all.”
The Union Vote
Donald Trump in 2016 did better among union members than any Republican presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan. This was largely driven by white men, who make up the core of Mr. Trump’s base heading into the 2020 election.
Percent of presidential vote by union members
The deal underscored the influence that labor unions have achieved this year as candidates in a large Democratic field seek ways to distinguish themselves in a tight race for the party’s presidential nomination.
Unlike the 2016 primary campaign, at this point many of the nation’s largest and medium-size unions haven’t yet issued endorsements, though some locals have embraced candidates. The share of American workers in unions hit a record low of 10.3% last year, but labor is nonetheless a significant player in the Democratic Party.
The Democratic candidates have taken dozens of actions to appeal to unions, including appearing on picket lines in the Boston area to support striking workers at Stop & Shop groceries; in Iowa with
workers; and in Michigan with members of the United Auto Workers. They have also called workers on strike to offer support and attended labor forums.
Former Vice President
first campaign rally was held at a Teamsters hall in Pittsburgh, while
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s
formal announcement came at a former textile mill in Lawrence, Mass., the site of the 1912 Bread and Roses strike.