Union Chief Didn't Hesitate to Carpet-Bomb the House in Battle Over Bargaining Changes

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Don't ask Bobby Haynes a question if you can't take an honest answer. And don't say anything critical about the labor movement if you're not ready for a fight.

Haynes, the Massachusetts President of the AFL-CIO, is blunt to a fault. He stabs no one in the back. He puts it right into your chest.

I couldn't dislike Mr. Haynes if I tried.

His way of expressing himself, however, can sometimes be a bit much. Subtlety is not his deal. He can crack the crystal and china without even pounding the table.

How over the top can Bobby Haynes be?

Consider his verbal carpet-bombing of the Massachusetts House of Representatives after it voted, 111-42, on Tuesday night, April 26, to change a law, via the budget process, to allow cities and towns to change co-pays and deductibles in employee health plans without bargaining.

"It's clearly union busting," Haynes declared. "It looks just like Wisconsin to me. It looks just like Ohio to me. I am profoundly disappointed in every Democrat who voted to do away with collective bargaining here in Massachusetts."

I don't know about you, but I have not seen in the last few days any newly defunct municipal employee unions or any union agents rendered suddenly irrelevant by the robbery of their collective bargaining powers. We're talking co-pays and deductibles here, hardly the equivalent of Reagan doing his Trump act on the air traffic controllers.

As biting as Haynes was after the House voted for these tweaks to the collective bargaining process, he was even harder and angrier beforehand.

Union officials made a last-minute plea to House Speaker Robert DeLeo shortly before the House vote, the State House News Service reported, and as the union emissaries were leaving that confab, Haynes paused to recount to the SHNS's Kyle Cheney this parting exchange:

"The Speaker told us good luck when we left his office, and I told him good luck and good luck to his Democratic members. Can you imagine what teachers and firefighters and police officers and public sector workers and nurses and librarians are going to think when they wake up tomorrow morning to find out the Democrats that we elected, that we worked for, that we contributed to their campaigns, just snatched collective bargaining away from them, just took the voice, the Democratic voice, away from working people?

"I say good luck to him. And good luck to the future of this House."

On Wednesday afternoon, April 27, I was talking with a Democratic rep who had voted with labor, and against the Speaker, on this issue. He described the enormous pressure that labor applied to defeat it, and the lesser pressure from leadership to pass it.

"Bobby Haynes won you over, then?" I asked.

"No," he quickly said. "Haynes was way over the top. Exaggerated as hell. He didn't help, running around, making all those statements. It was the union folks in my district, with all their phone calls and appeals, who made the case. No one threatened, no one raised their voice."

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