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More graduation speakers boycott UC ceremonies

May 12, 2010 | 12:49 pm

A labor union's call for graduation speakers to withdraw from the ceremonies at UC campuses is gaining traction. Among several others canceling their speeches, state Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles) is dropping out of a commitment to address a graduation event for Latino students at UC Berkeley on May 15 and Robert Hertzberg, former Assembly speaker, will no longer give an address at UC Berkeley's ceremony for political science graduates on May 17.

Earlier this week, Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove) withdrew from a June 12 speech at the UC Riverside commencement in response to a request from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, which represents about 20,000 UC workers, including hospital technicians and campus custodians. The union plans to picket the graduations over what it says are UC's unfair layoffs and proposals for pay cuts as a result of state budget reductions.

UC leaders, while arranging substitute speakers, are criticizing the union's move as disrupting a special day for graduates and their families.

Romero, in a prepared statement Wednesday, noted what she described an irony at the graduation: "On one hand, students in robes celebrating the overcoming of obstacles and staking their claim in the American Dream; on the other hand, I would have seen Latino workers, perhaps their own uncles and aunts, holding picket signs asking this internationally acclaimed university to simply pay them a living wage."

A similar dispute two years ago led prominent Democrats, including former President Clinton, to withdraw from speeches at UC campuses. 

-- Larry Gordon