UC bereft of commencement speakers

Contact: Lakesha Harrison, President: 310-877-6878
Maricruz Cecena, Graduating Senior: 310-429-2207

Retired General Wesley Clark Latest in a Series of Cancellations by UCLA Graduation Speakers


Clark joins Former President Bill Clinton, and Congressmembers Waxman and Solis to refuse to cross the picket line of 20,000 UC workers

California – Retired General Wesley Clark is the latest of a growing group of speakers to cancel their scheduled appearance at UCLA’s commencement ceremonies this weekend unless 20,000 UC workers receive of a fair contract. Former President Bill Clinton confirmed his cancellation on Tuesday and was joined by Congresswoman Hilda Solis and Congressman Henry Waxman who were also scheduled at UCLA this weekend. Students, workers and community supporters are planning to picket at commencement ceremonies across the state this weekend.

"I am disappointed that I will not be able to be a commencement speaker, but I won't cross the picket line. The students who are graduating, along with their parents who support them should be congratulated on their achievement. My hope is this dispute will come to a resolution very soon."
– Retired General Wesley Clark

"Until the University of California and the 20,000 patient care and service workers resolve their dispute, I won’t be able to speak at the commencement ceremony for the U.C.L.A. School of Public Health. I will not cross the picket line and hope this is resolved as quickly as possible."
– Congressman Henry Waxman

The 20,000 patient care and service workers do everything from assisting in surgeries to cleaning dorm rooms in the University of California’s ten campus/five hospital system. They have been negotiating for a fair contract since August, 2007.

Graduations at other UC campuses have also been affected by this show of solidarity with UC workers, including Speaker Emeritus of the California Assembly Fabian Núñez’s cancellation on Wednesday at UC Davis. Robert Kennedy Jr., Assemblyman John Laird, Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, Angela Davis and many notable professors have also pledged to cancel unless the contract is settled. This represents speakers at nearly all UC campuses where graduations are scheduled.

At issue are UC wages, which are dramatically behind other hospitals and California’s community colleges where workers are paid an average of 25% higher for the same work. Patient care workers are concerned this is contributing to high-turnover, staffing shortages, and over-reliance on temps which can affect patient care as extra time is needed to train the constant flow of new staff.

For service workers, wages are as low as $10 an hour, and 96% of UC service workers are income eligible for at least one of the following public assistance programs: food stamps, WIC, public housing subsidies, and reduced lunch. Many work 2-3 jobs to meet their families’ basic needs.

The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 3299, AFL-CIO represents
20,000 patient care and service workers at UC including licensed vocational nurses, medical techs and assistants,
respiratory therapists, custodians, cafeteria workers, and security officers.
2201 Broadway Ave, Suite 315
Oakland, CA 94612, (510) 844-1160, media@afscme3299.org

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