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Democrats Threaten to Skip Next Debate Over Labor Dispute

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  • The next Democratic primary debate is scheduled for Thursday at Loyola Marymount University, however, a union representing food service workers said they will picket the event over negotiations with their employer, Sodexo, who is contracted by the school.
  • Not wanting to cross the picket line, all seven of the qualifying candidates have vowed not to attend unless the dispute is solved. 
  • The union says it will resume talks with Sodexo before Tuesday and hopes to resolve the matter. The DNC says Chair Tom Perez has been in communications with involved parties.

Negotiations Set to Continue

After all seven Democrats slated to take the stage during Thursday’s debate threatened to drop out over labor disputes, the union at the center of the issue said that a resolution could be on the way.

The debate is scheduled to be held at Loyola Marymount University. However, its status has been up in the air since Unite Here Local 11, a union representing 150 food service workers on campus, began protesting over workers’ benefits.

While negotiating for fairer wages and better healthcare benefits with their employer Sodexo, the company contracted by LMU to provide food on campus, workers have not gotten the results they expected. 

Because of this, they planned to picket on the school’s campus on the night of the debate. Unwilling to cross that picket line, the candidates said they would not attend until the dispute was solved. In a statement on Sunday morning, Unite Here Local 11 thanked the candidates for supporting them. They said there is hope that the debate may still go on.

“We look forward to continuing negotiations with Sodexo on Tuesday or sooner in hopes of reaching an agreement before Thursday’s debate,” the union’s co-President Susan Minato wrote. 

Democrats Threaten to Boycott Debate

On Friday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) was the first to threaten to boycott. “I will not cross the union’s picket line even if it means missing the debate,” she said.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) quickly followed suit. 

The rest of the qualifying candidates, former Vice President Joe Biden; Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN); South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg; entrepreneur Andrew Yang; and businessman Tom Steyer all joined within the following couple of hours. 

The communications director for the DNC, Xochitl Hinojosa, tweeted a statement about the debate. She said DNC Chair Tom Perez would not cross that line either and that they were working on solving the problem.

On Monday, Hinojosa gave another statement picked up by a CNN reporter saying that Perez had been in communication with the involved parties and expects a resolution. 

What Involved Parties Are Saying

For its part, LMU has said that while it is not a party in the negotiations, the school still hopes an agreement is reached. 

“LMU is proud to host the DNC Presidential Debate and is committed to ensuring that the university is a rewarding place to learn, live, and work,” a statement on the school’s site said.

Minato told HuffPost that Unite Here Local 11 was surprised Sodexo was not meeting their requests. 

“Honestly, the proposals are relatively modest ― living wage, improvements on health care. So we did not anticipate that there would be majority difficulty over it,” Minato said. “But we were wrong. They abruptly canceled negotiations. I believe they were for today. And so that put us in the position of really declaring that this is a true fight now.”

Sodexo, on the other hand, maintains that they have been more than willing to work with Unite Here Local 11. 

“Sodexo is 100% committed to reaching an agreement, and any statement that we have left the bargaining table is not accurate,” the company said in a statement to HuffPost. “We have been negotiating in good faith with the Unite Here Local 11 since December of last year with a goal to reach a new collective bargaining agreement that is equitable for everyone, including our employees, and we still intend to achieve such an agreement.”

This is the second time labor disputes have created issues for the Dec. 19 debate. UCLA was originally slated to host the event, but the DNC switched locations after a chapter of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees launched a boycott against having speakers on campus. The union wrote a letter to several candidates asking for this boycott to be respected.

See what others are saying: (HuffPost) (Politico) (Fox Business)

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Federal Court Throws Out Alabama Congressional Map, Citing Racial Gerrymandering

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The judges ruled that the Republican-held legislature gerrymandered the map so the state only had one Black-majority district despite Black residents composing 27% of the state’s population.


Alabama Ordered to Redraw Map

A panel of federal judges tossed Alabama’s new congressional map on Monday, ruling that the current version significantly weakens the voting power of Black residents.   

In their decision, the three judges noted that while about 27% of Alabamians are Black, the map drawn by the Republican-led legislature after the 2020 census was gerrymandered to leave just one of the state’s seven districts with a Black majority.

“Black voters have less opportunity than other Alabamians to elect candidates of their choice to Congress,” the judges wrote. “We find that the plaintiffs will suffer an irreparable harm if they must vote in the 2022 congressional elections based on a redistricting plan that violates federal law.”

As a result, the panel also ordered state lawmakers to redraw their map so that it includes “two districts in which Black voters either comprise a voting-age majority or something quite close to it.”

The legislature was given 14 days to redo their map before they appoint a special master to do so.

Ongoing Legal Battles

Shortly after the ruling, a spokesperson for Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said in a statement that his office “strongly disagrees with the court’s decision and will be appealing in the coming days.” 

According to reports, the matter could ultimately go to the Supreme Court, which would decide whether lawmakers can draw maps that are gerrymandered along racial lines.

The high court ruled in 2019 that federal courts do not have the power to block congressional maps that are gerrymandered to skew districts in a partisan manner unless a state’s constitution explicitly prohibits such gerrymandering. The justices did keep parts of the Voting Rights Act that ban racial or ethnic gerrymandering, which the federal panel claimed was the case in Alabama.

Alabama’s congressional map is not the only one drawn by Republicans that has been thrown out in recent weeks. Earlier this month, Ohio’s Supreme Court ordered lawmakers to redraw a map that would have given Republicans 12 congressional seats and Democrats just three despite the fact that recently the GOP has only won about 55% of the popular vote statewide.

The state’s high court ruled that the map clearly violated a constitutional amendment overwhelmingly passed by voters in 2018 that effectively banned partisan gerrymandering.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (AL.com)

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Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Affirmative Action Cases at Harvard and UNC

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The decision to take up the two cases marks the first time affirmative action will go before the high court’s latest conservative-majority bloc.


SCOTUS Takes on Race-Conscious Admissions, Again

The Supreme Court announced Monday that it will again consider whether race-conscious admissions programs at universities are legal in two cases that could have serious implications for affirmative action.

The two lawsuits center around admissions policies at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), both of which were brought by the conservative nonprofit Students for Fair Admissions.

The Harvard case started in 2014 with a lawsuit that claimed the school discriminated against Asian American students by effectively creating a quota for their admission. It also alleged the school a subjective standard to measure personality traits like likability, courage, and kindness.

The Ivy League school denied the allegations, claiming the challengers used incorrect statistical analysis and broadly arguing that race-conscious policies are legal.

In the case against UNC, the group alleged that the school discriminated against white and Asian applicants by giving preference to Black, Hispanic, and Native American students.

The university, for its part, argued that its policies create more diversity among its student body, also echoing Harvard’s argument that such rules are legal under decades of Supreme Court precedents.

Past Precedent Up in the Air

Lower courts ruled in favor of both schools, finding they did indeed comply with Supreme Court decisions.

But in taking up these two cases, the high court’s conservative majority will now examine whether race-conscious admissions are legal at all. The move could decide the future of affirmative action and undermine more than four decades of precedent on the use of race in college admissions.

The last two times the high court took up cases regarding affirmative action, the justices upheld the constitutionality of race-conscious programs by slim majorities. Now, those majorities have been replaced by a conservative bloc that includes three justices appointed by former President Donald Trump.

According to reports, the justices will likely hear the cases in October. 

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (NPR)

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Pelosi Reverses Course, Signals Openness to Stock Trading Ban for Congress

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The move comes as public and bipartisan support for legislation banning Congress members from stock trading has grown in recent weeks.


Pelosi Backtracks on Member Trading

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) on Thursday signaled openness to legislation that would ban members of Congress from trading stocks, reversing her previous position on the matter.

“I do come down always in favor of trusting our members,” Pelosi said at a press conference. “If the impression that is given by some that somebody is doing insider trading, that’s a Justice Department issue and that has no place in any of this.”

“To give a blanket attitude of ‘We can’t do this and we can’t do,’ because we can’t be trusted, I just don’t buy into that. But if members want to do that, I’m okay with that,” she continued.

The speaker’s remarks come as she has faced mounting backlash for voicing opposition to such a ban. 

“We are a free market economy,” she told reporters when asked about the matter last month. “They should be able to participate in that.”

While Pelosi herself does not trade, her husband has invested millions in stocks. Those trades have been made public under the 2012 STOCK Act, which has required Congress members and their spouses to disclose when they buy and sell stocks for the last decade.

But the law has a mixed track record. A recent investigation by Insider found that “dozens of lawmakers and 182 senior congressional staff” have violated the law.

The act also came under intense scrutiny after financial disclosures filed by lawmakers exposed that members of both parties made trades in 2020 that benefited their portfolios after receiving early briefings on the seriousness of the pandemic. 

The Justice Department reviewed some of the cases, but it ultimately did not bring any charges. 

Momentum Grows for Congressional Ban

In recent weeks, pressure to reform the STOCK Act has been growing both among the public and in Congress.

Proponents argue that Congress members should be banned from trading stocks altogether to ensure they do not have conflicts of interest or use their access to classified briefings to make money.

According to a new poll from the progressive firm Data for Progress, 67% of voters support a ban. That number rose to 74% when the respondents were given arguments both for and against the idea.

In Congress, there is widespread bipartisan support for legislation to impose stricter regulations, including among top leadership.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca.) has reportedly said he is considering banning members from trading if Republicans win control of the House and select him as Speaker in 2022.

“I cannot imagine being a Speaker of the House with the power of what can come before committee, you name them and what can come to the floor and trading millions of dollars worth of options,” he told NPR earlier this month. “I just don’t think the American people think that’s right.”

Members of both parties have already put forth proposals. Last week, Sens. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) and Mark Kelly (D-Az.) introduced legislation that would effectively ban lawmakers, as well as their spouses and dependents, from buying and selling stocks.

The same day, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) rolled out a very similar bill, though his version would not include dependents.

See what others are saying: (NPR) (The Hill) (Business Insider)

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