Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Oh, You Thought This Day Was About YOU?

Former President Bill Clinton and Former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez both announced yesterday that they were cancelling their scheduled commencement addresses at UC campuses, due to an ongoing labor dispute.

Bill Clinton cancels commencement speech at UCLA
- The Associated Press Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Bill Clinton Tuesday canceled a commencement speech at the University of California, Los Angeles, because of a lingering labor dispute.

The former president was scheduled to address 4,000 graduating seniors on Friday, but his office said he would not appear because of the long-running rift between UC and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Contract talks have sputtered for months.

"Due to the ongoing labor dispute, he regrets that he will be unable to participate in commencement this year and he wishes the UCLA graduates the best of luck," a statement from Clinton's office said.

UCLA Chancellor Gene Block will deliver keynote remarks to approximately 4,000 graduating seniors.

The university and Clinton agreed that because a union contract could not be guaranteed by Friday, it was best to tap a new keynote speaker, UCLA said in a statement.

Judith L. Smith, dean and vice provost of undergraduate education at the UCLA College of Letters and Science, said in a statement that it was "unfortunate" that the labor dispute spilled into a day "intended to celebrate student achievement.

"While we're disappointed for students and their family members looking forward to hearing a former president speak, we anticipate a joyful mood as we send off graduating seniors with a ceremony filled with colorful traditions," Smith said.

Clinton's office said last month he wouldn't appear unless a contract is settled. The 20,000 workers involved in the wage dispute range from technicians at UC medical facilities to janitors and landscapers.

Former California Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez also canceled a commencement speech at UC Davis scheduled for Wednesday because of the labor dispute, the university said Tuesday.

You can think what you want about who's right and who's wrong in this particular dispute. Personally I have no idea, but having worked closely around higher education labor issues for over a decade, I suspect that there is right and wrong on both sides.

But I can't help thinking that this an entirely inappropriate gesture on the part of Clinton and Nunez. This action on their part will have no impact on the ongoing labor negotiations. The only losers here are the students. Well, at least the students at UCLA, who would have been hearing Clinton.

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