California Union Calls for Graduation Speaker Boycott

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This is awkward. A labor dispute at the University of California caused one graduation speaker to cancel her appearance. An article by Larry Gordon in the Los Angeles Times reports that:

U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove) has decided not to deliver a graduation address at UC Riverside in response to a labor union’s campaign for a speaker boycott at UC’s nine undergraduate campuses.

Sanchez said she would not speak at the June 12 ceremony for UC Riverside’s College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences…. “My family roots are in organized labor and, in good conscience, I cannot and will not cross the picket line to speak. I wish nothing but the best for this year’s young graduates and hope they will respect my decision to stand in solidarity with my union brothers and sisters,” said Sanchez.

Sanchez, a 7th term Democrat from Orange County, declined to speak at the graduation ceremonies at the University of California, Riverside after UC union leaders called on graduation speakers to sit out this year’s ceremonies to protest the university system’s “misplaced priorities.”

As Lakesha Harrison, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) local 3299, explained in her letter to graduation speakers:

The state’s funding cuts to UC are undeniable, but UC executives’ misplaced priorities are shockingly apparent. According to executives, UC is saving $7 million through cuts to low wage workers, yet UC executives have received over $9 million in increases since the cuts were implemented. This means they are spending more on executives than what they are supposedly saving from cuts to low wage workers!

Sanchez, of course, would not actually have to cross the picket line to speak. There is no picket line. The employees aren’t on strike; they just want the speakers to stay home. Sanchez declined to address the specific grievances Harrison outlined in her letter.

The union expects other graduation orators to join Sanchez in declining to speak this year. [Image via]

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer