Bill Clinton Backs Out of UCLA Commencement Speech Citing Lingering Labor Rift

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.

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.