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UNION SNUBS BUSH'S LABOR SECRETARY

The Communications Workers of America, angry over the Bush administration's stand on the hiring of replacement workers during strikes, withdrew an invitation to Secretary of Labor Lynn Martin to speak Wednesday at the its annual convention.

Martin learned of her cancelled appointment late Tuesday as she arrived at San Francisco International Airport from Washington.CWA spokesman Steve Rosenthal said the leadership of the 650,000-member union, part of the AFL-CIO, decided Tuesday to cancel the speech after learning there was a great deal of anti-administration feeling among 3,000 delegates attending the convention.

He said union leaders feared there would be a walkout or loud demonstration during Martin's speech and decided to spare her "the embarrassment."

At a news conference just before leaving San Francisco, the rebuffed cabinet secretary said she was disappointed that she had been denied the right to speak.

"It is the perfect right of the union to invite whom they choose and, I guess then, to disinvite," said Martin.

Martin said she had planned to speak to the convention about the changing nature of the American workforce and steps that needed to be taken to develop a competitive workforce for the future.

The issue that prompted cancellation of her speech was the Bush administration's opposition to legislation pending in Congress that would prohibit employers from hiring permanent replacements for workers on strike.

Asked how she would have responded if she had taken the podium and the union delegates then walked out, Martin responded:

"I'm a former teacher and occasionally when I wasn't at my best I watched students fall asleep, so I probably wouldn't have been surprised."