Labor dispute prompts Bill Clinton to cancel UCLA commencement speech

LOS ANGELES

Bill Clinton 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 the university and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

The 20,000 workers involved in the wage dispute range from technicians at UC medical facilities to janitors and landscapers. 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 Tuesday.

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.

Instead, UCLA Chancellor Gene Block will deliver keynote remarks.

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.”

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.

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