The sixth democratic presidential primary debate will no longer be hosted on UCLA’s campus. Citing ongoing labor disputes, the Democratic National Committee announced Tuesday that they will seek an alternate venue.
For three years now, negotiations over pay have stalled between the UCs and labor union AFSCME 3299. During this time, neither the university nor the union have made significant concessions. In an attempt to increase their bargaining power this past April, the union called for guest speakers to boycott their engagements with the university.
The DNC’s decision to abide by the request is an anomaly, as almost no other speaker has cancelled. For example, earlier this year, former First Lady Michelle Obama spoke to over 10,000 students at UCLA. San Francisco Mayor London Breed and former UN Ambassador Samantha Powers have also ignored the request.
The venue was likely changed because multiple candidates have been publicly involved in the dispute. In the past year, Bernie Sanders and Julián Castro both joined the picket lines and Kamala Harris turned down a speaking engagement at the behest of AFSCME 3299.
In spite of national attention, UCLA has not shown any sign of backing down in negotiations with the union. In an official press release, the university stated, “with regret, we have agreed to step aside as the site of the debate rather than become a potential distraction during this vitally important time in our country’s history.”
Though the press release accepts the DNC’s choice, it does not acknowledge the university’s role in the decision to change venues; this doesn’t bode well for future negotiations. If the university is unwilling to admit their involvement in the situation that led to cancellation, it is unlikely that it will admit wrongdoing by making any concessions to AFSCME 3299.
The public nature of this decision has significant ramifications for the university. For better or worse, all guest lecturers – even those uninvolved in politics – must now consider the implications of their association with UCLA. Only time will tell the impact of the precedent set by accepting the union’s demands.
By: Michael Balourdas & Allison Malone