Four Questions For: Robert J. Haynes
Movers & Shakers — Labor Consultant
Robert J. Haynes is President Emeritus of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, and president of Haynes & Associates. At a February 17th testimonial, Bob will be honored for his dynamic leadership of the 400,000-strong state fed as president (1998-2011) and secretary-treasurer. Haynes rose from an apprentice ironworker to Ironworkers Local 7 secretary treasurer. Bob and his wife Marybeth, a teacher, have a son, Joseph. A Labor Guild former board member, Bob is a Cushing-Gavin Awardee.
Labor Life: In your 24 years with the state fed, what challenges has the labor movement had to contend with economically and politically?
Bob Haynes: Economically, American workers took a huge hit between a decades-long systemic attack to reduce union density and US deindustrialization shipping millions of manufacturing jobs overseas. Private sector unionization is now in the 8-9% range. Right wing attacks on collective bargaining try to gin up envy and resentment against public sector workers and their benefits. Fortunately, the pushback’s been ferocious.
What I love about the Occupy movement is that it’s done more in a year to expose the elites, than the labor movement managed in 30 years. Chart stagnant real-dollar US wages and union membership declines over those years and they track downward in exact parallel. All while the rich are getting unbelievably richer. The young and Americans of every ilk are saying “This economy’s rigged against me, my family and the 99%, and that has to change.”
Politically, I’m grateful that we’ve achieved major victories, but at times, it’s problematic. Certain local Democrats were still taking the anti-government bait, and cast votes that hurt our members. When we didn’t endorse 17 or 18 of those state legislators in the last election, Democrats lost those seats. It caused a ruckus, but that’s the way it’s supposed to work. Reward your friends, and punish your enemies.
LL: Could you talk about an area where you took the state fed in a new direction?
BH: When I started in 1987, our movement had turned inward and provincial in many ways. Taking the movement external was my way to expand our base and build relationships with all sectors. I began serving on boards and advisory groups working with higher education, government, healthcare, industry, utilities, along with non-profits and faith-based organizations. It matters that Labor’s voice and perspective is at the table when critical policies are made that impact workers and families.
In workforce development, we advocate for training and education models and state grants that give workers, students, and the underemployed the re-skilling and up-skilling needed to land today’s jobs. We take similar collaborative approaches on healthcare, job creation, housing, health insurance for all, etc.
LL: What are you most proud of?
BH: First, our community service and outreach. In 2012, our Scholarship Program will award $1,000,000 to hundreds of students from working families—up from $90,000 in 1987. Kids qualify by taking a labor history exam. We also created and funded a $1 million scholarship endowment. In September, 15,000 people hiked in our 13th Annual Walk to Cure Cancer for five miles around Lake Quinsigamond. They raise almost $1 million for the Mass AFL-CIO Cancer Research Center at U Mass Medical in Worcester which provides magnificent care to people all around the state.
Second, I see our next labor generation’s fights as much tougher than those my generation faced. Our Futures Program gives a voice to young activists in their 20s and 30s from all unions and sectors to ignite new leadership. At their 4th Convention, they elected their next Futures Rep for the state fed Executive Council.
LL: What’s your next adventure?
BH: Every 10 years or so, there’s a professional transition in my life. At each stage, I learn, set goals, accomplish them, and move on. At 62, I’m excited to use my education and experience to do some good for organizations that respect workers and the environment. One priority is helping municipalities develop energy retrofitting projects that are smart, scalable and successful. I’ll get to work with my son Joe and tap his expertise in solar and wind technologies.
I also want to do stuff to help out in the 2012 election. I think Obama will win, but it won’t be easy. People are frustrated. Someone reminded me that in 2003 Governor Romney’s first budget tried to take health care from state employees’ spouses and offspring. That says it all.
The Warren-Brown race will be exciting. People are catching on to Brown. Senate Republicans let him off the leash on certain votes but Brown routinely votes against working people.
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