Labor Day Message: Another World is Possible

Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 7.38.37 AM

By Thom Haines — September 5, 2016

Happy Labor Day in the U.S.! Another World is Possible! Proud to be an AFSCME member!

International labor solidarity is a key component to realizing another world where people and the environment are more highly valued than profit. A vibrant labor movement in the United States acting in solidarity with workers around the world will create a politically effective force that has the power to change an exploitive system supported by the armed forces and military aid of the United States and other Global North countries.

Honduras is an especially clear example of what is wrong with the current system and what is needed to fix it. The Human Rights Delegation to Honduras Report — released last week by the Alliance for Global Justice, CODEPINK, and the Honduras Solidarity Network — helps us connect the dots. Abusive labor practices, militarization of police forces in the name of fighting drugs or communism or terrorism, killing journalists, killing union organizers, killing environmental activists like Berta Cáceres, trade deals like NAFTA, CAFTA, and the TPP, and knee jerk nationalism are all components of the same problem.

The global economic system does not want to change and will not until forced. In the United States, in spite of some hopeful signs such as the Sanders campaign and Black Lives Matter, we must admit that we have not yet achieved a politically effective force to change the world. While organized labor may be weaker than it has been, rebuilding the labor movement is possible and offers hope.

At a Keith Ellison Labor Day rally in Minneapolis on Sunday, Sen. Al Franken expressed pride in belonging to three unions. I’m only a member of one, but I am proud to be in solidarity with other AFSCME members. In the coming years, it is my fervent hope that unions grow and that we see beyond the next contract to the possibility of international solidarity. Another world is possible.

Thom Haines is an Assistant County Attorney in Minnesota, where he serves on the Minnesota State Bar Association Data Practices Committee. He is a member of the boards of the United Church of Christ Wider Church Ministries, the Mayflower Church Foundation in Minneapolis, and G Project, a 501(c)(3) supporting human rights story-telling in Guatemala. Thom is a former Teamster and CWA member, and current member of AFSCME Council 65.

MOA Surveillance of BlackLivesMatter Makes National Press

Screen Shot 2015-03-18 at 5.46.42 PM

By JT Haines, March 18, 2015

We Minnesotans have made national news, and not in the good way.

First Look’s The Intercept has picked up a recent discovery (h/t FOIA colleague Tony Webster) that Mall of America security used a fake facebook account to spy on good people in Minnesota — at least one of whom, Lena Gardner, is a personal friend of mine (who I first met in 2010 on a John Marty campaign). Another, Nekima Levy-Pounds, is a law professor at University of Saint Thomas and respected local civil rights lawyer.

The Intercept’s article describes “catfishing” of movement organizers, whereby a Mall of America “Intelligence Analyst” befriended activists including Gardner and Levy-Pounds, and “liked” the Black Lives Matter Minneapolis Facebook Page, for surveillance purposes. The Intercept reports that the fake account was removed after TI contacted MOA.

Newspeak Review joins the calls for the City of Bloomington to ‪#‎DroptheCharges‬ and for citizens to ‪#‎BoycottMOA (at least) until it does so‬. This behavior by the Mall is wrong, as are the charges by the City of Bloomington. Let’s trust the people we know, and speak together. For more information on this important development in Minnesota, you can follow Black Lives Matter Minneapolis.


“The Shadow of Crisis Has Passed”: Reflecting on the 2015 State of the Union

President Obama, VP Biden, Speaker Boehner, SOTU 2015

President Obama, VP Biden, Speaker Boehner, SOTU 2015

By JT Haines — January 23, 2015

For many, the President’s State of the Union address this year was a bit of a feel good romp. (“Where has this been for 6 years?” and etc.) Some have argued that, to the degree this year’s SOTU was improved, it has more to do with political calculations than Obama himself, but that said, he did offer more in this address than any SOTU I can remember, with a couple of potshots at the troglodytes to boot. Let’s take a look at some of what the address did, and didn’t include.


Here are three of the better excerpts:

Money: “To everyone in this Congress who still refuses to raise the minimum wage, I say this: If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, go try it. If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise.”

War: “The question is not whether America leads in the world, but how. When we make rash decisions, reacting to the headlines instead of using our heads; when the first response to a challenge is to send in our military – then we risk getting drawn into unnecessary conflicts, and neglect the broader strategy we need for a safer, more prosperous world.”

Climate: “2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record. Now, one year doesn’t make a trend, but this does – 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century…The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we do not act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict, and hunger around the globe. The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. We should act like it.” (emphasis mine)

The President of the United States saying these things out loud is a progress of sorts to be recognized. A full transcript of the address is available at NPR.


Not surprisingly, the address also glossed over some pretty key facts and context. Here are a few of the more important facts that I believe were not properly represented in the address:

Incarceration. With 2.2 million people in jail, the United States has the world’s highest incarceration rate. (Highest!) [Harvard Mag] Incarcerated drug offenders are up 1200% since 1980, and 75% of prisoners locked up on drug-related charges are African-American. In his book “Blowing the Roof Off the 21st Century,” Robert W. McChesney makes a compelling case that these developments are due in significant part to economic forces, including the increasing privatization of prisons. This is plainly immoral, and key information to include when one is boasting about crime rates. #NotInSOTU.

Inequality. Income inequality in the US is at its worst since 1928. [Pew Research] The top 1% of the world’s population owns at least 40% of its wealth. [Vox] This was #NotInSOTU.

Military Spending. The US spends more on the military than the next 10 countries combined [NBC], outlays which are increasingly privatized. We have military bases and operations all over the globe. We are an empire. #NotInSOTU

Planet. We have lost half of our wildlife on this planet in just 40 years due to human exploitation and habitat degradation, threatening all life on this planet. [World Wildlife Fund] This unbelievable and urgent development, tied directly to our economic system, was #NotInSOTU. Not remotely.

These are just a few examples of crucial topics I did not hear honestly addressed in the SOTU. We also heard very little if anything about drone killings, infringements on civil liberties, police brutality, and the absolute urgency and reasonability of the demands of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. (For more of what wasn’t in the address, check out Seattle City Council Person Kshama Sawant’s “Socialist Response to the State of the Union” and Ralph Nader’s “Swings and Misses“.)


There was value in the President’s 2015 SOTU, and we should both appreciate his inclusion of certain matters as well as demand action to accompany the words. Obviously, even in the best of times with the best of intentions, it would be impossible and perhaps even unwise for the President to take up all subjects of concern during the State of the Union address.

We must also, though, have our eyes wide open. A mere two days after Obama declared ”The shadow of crisis has passed, and the State of the Union is strong,” the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists and its 17 nobel laureates moved the Doomsday Clock 2 minutes closer to midnight, citing climate change and nuclear proliferation. [CNN] That clock now sits at 11:57.

I wonder if those guys were watching the same speech we were.

Klein on Centrist Timidity / #BlackLivesMatter Demonstration at MOA Today

Screen Shot 2014-12-20 at 12.51.55 PM

By JT Haines, December 20, 2014

Great interview with Naomi Klein in Sierra Club’s magazine next month. Here are a couple excerpts:

Klein argues with passion and scholastic rigor that “our economic system and our planetary system are now at war.” Although the idea is neither new nor particularly shocking, Klein says she’s surprised by the number of environmentalists who shy away from it for fear of being branded as radicals.

“The real divide between liberals and radicals is how they feel about mass movements. Because mass movements are messy. You can have people with very similar goals, but if your model of social change is that it should come from a combination of smart leaders and technocratic policy options, maybe a little bit of lobbying” . . . some lawsuits . . .”Yeah, then you’re going to be threatened by the messiness of mass movements. Radicals tend to believe that change comes when you have these messy shifts from below, and those shifts make space for people to work in the center. I don’t think that enough credit is given.”

As usual, Klein is spot on. I’ve personally observed people working in “the center” be actually disparaging of the hard work taking place in the community and on the streets, and then a few years later claim credit for changes at the legislature that ultimately were the result. Perhaps you can think of some examples too.

In related news, #BlackLivesMatter MPLS is organizing a solidarity demonstration today at the Mall of America at 2PM– an action which is of course being met by significant hostility and misunderstanding (“why the shopping mall?”, “You’re inconveniencing people trying to get to work!” being two of the (tamer) reactions I’ve seen.) Information for the event can be found here. If you’re not able to make it (and aren’t too bothered by what strikes me as an unusually high online processing fee) you can join me in donating to #BlackLivesMatter to “help support efforts with bail, legal services and other supplies” here.

The full Sierra Club Naomi Klein interview is here: