Texas Longhorns with newborn calf in Bluebonnets

Texas Longhorns with newborn calf in Bluebonnets

Please note I have a new phone number...


Alan Maki

Alan Maki
Doing research at the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas

It's time to claim our Peace Dividend

It's time to claim our Peace Dividend

We need to beat swords into plowshares.

We need to beat swords into plowshares.

A program for real change...


What we need is a "21st Century Full Employment Act for Peace and Prosperity" which would make it a mandatory requirement that the president and Congress attain and maintain full employment.

"Voting is easy and marginally useful, but it is a poor substitute for democracy, which requires direct action by concerned citizens"

- Ben Franklin

Let's talk...

Let's talk...

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Labor Day 2007

Alan Maki wrote:

This is being Blind Carbon Copied to a number of members of the DFL State
Central Committee who are very concerned about the impact that domination of
the DFL by the DFL Business Caucus and St. Paul Chamber of Commerce is
having inside of the MN DFL. I met with a group of members of the DFL State
Central Committee in Forest Lake about this very problem... I can assure
everyone... we have some very unhappy campers and a very serious crack is
getting bigger... many more hairline cracks with the potential of
dangerously expanding--- perhaps reflective of how the I 35W Bridge
collapsed? Something to consider and ponder.

Working people are not going to stand by indefinitely as their problems
worsen, unions lose influence, and business interests openly begin to
dominate the Minnesota DFL and other Democratic Party organizations like in
Michigan where a bunch of mobsters, the Fertitta Family--- fronting for the
Kansas City Mob, has greased the palms of so many Democratic politicians who
have taken the money... in the future, after the Fertitta's get their Gun
Lake casino... this money will flow to Republican Party coffers; this is
the way they have operated where ever they go. Just like the Ford Motor
Company and the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce has done with the future of the
Ford Plant.

I think we need to ask the question, "How much longer can the Minnesota DFL
continue under the present leadership which has refused to insist on the
unity of the Legislative Caucus on such an important and fundamental issue
as saving the Ford Plant?"

First we saw Michael Paymer desert Ford workers after being supported in
every way by the Local; then we saw Pat Harris and these other St. Paul
Council members (Democrats) get behind the DFL Business Caucus and the St.
Paul Chamber of Commerce in opposing the legislation to save the Ford Plant
and the dam.

Come on really... how does anyone expect working people to respond to all of

First everyone was willing to look the other way as the issues of casino
workers were brought forward. Now it is the issues of auto workers. There
will be another group of workers next and so on and so forth.

Does anyone really believe that when you have 20,000 casino workers slighted
by the Minnesota DFL, now 2,000 auto workers (not to mention widespread
community support for saving the plant) that there will not come a point
where all of this comes to a head? Add to this the games being played by the
Democratic Party concerning the war in Iraq and on the issue of health
care... if a group of legislators and members of the DFL State Central
Committee does not step in here and exert their influence... you will have a
very serious problem on your hands. There are warning cracks everywhere...
all being ignored... just like with the collapse of the I 35W Bridge.

Brian Melendez, Susan Rego, and Andrew O'Leary can continue trying to focus
the blame on me for bringing these issues forward... this kind of crap may
work for awhile... but, as sure as this economy is going to collapse like
the I 35W Bridge... the DFL is facing a major crisis if these problems are
not addressed in a timely manner.

The present leadership of the Minnesota DFL can only be very thankful we
have not successfully organized casino workers yet... because, let me assure
you the arrogance of the MN DFL in ignoring their plight will not be
forgotten soon... there is an old saying in the labor movement... we reward
our friends and punish our enemies. Our electoral activity has been somewhat
negligible up until now... we first urged voters to vote for all DFL
candidates except for Valerie Solem and not vote for any Republicans in the
state legislative race. Last election we urged voters through a leaflet
distributed in seventeen communities surrounding casinos around the state to
vote for all DFL candidates except for Mike Hatch because he would not
support our efforts to secure the rights of casino workers to be employed in
healthy work environments free of second hand smoke and not vote for any
Republicans. Were we effective? I don't know... however, the election
results would tend to demonstrate we were in our distribution of over
100,000 leaflets.

We are about to begin testing this same strategy in Michigan where the
Democratic Governor has ignored the plight of casino workers--- should the
Michigan House and Senate continue on the legislative path of approving this
Gun Lake Casino Compact.

I am assuming a number of unions will be looking at our strategy very
closely. It is just so easy to destroy political campaigns with so little
financial investment in which so much money and work has been invested in
this way. Consider the cost of distributing one-hundred thousand leaflets as
opposed to the resources invested trying to get Mike Hatch elected governor.

Voters are very sympathetic right now to appeals being made by workers
struggling against injustices.

This should come as no surprise to anyone considering the beating working
people have been taking.

Consider this: No matter how you view things; working people are the
majority of voters.

Now, I am once again suggesting that members of the MN DFL State Central
Committee and the Michigan Democratic Party ask themselves if they want to
continue down this road of allowing business interests to dominate their
state Parties and their legislative caucuses?

Already in Michigan we have linked up with a number of rank and file
organizations like Soldiers of Solidarity who are taking a look at our
electoral strategy.

Working people who have camped out in Democratic fields are just not happy
campers right now.

Anyone should feel free to distribute this e-mail as they see fit.

I have heard from a couple members of the MN DFL State Central Committee who
have just decided to throw in the towel, fed up with all of this... I am
sure more will follow... these quitters don't amount to much... but I would
assume some voters will follow... and this does matter, eh?

Alan L. Maki

Director of Organizing,

Midwest Casino Workers Organizing Council


Elected member, Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party State Central

-----Original Message-----

From: vivian votava [mailto:oldladyslater@yahoo.com]

Sent: Thursday, August 30, 2007 10:03 AM

To: Alan Maki; lhinkle@peoplepc.com; 'Christine Frank'; djrie@visi.com; eric-angell@riseup.net; 'David Shove'; DLONG@uaw.net; 'Nadine Nosal'; gdubovich@usw.org; lgerard@usw.org; miaflcio@voyager.net; charleyunderwood@hotmail.com

Cc: rep.bill.hilty@house.mn; rep.al.juhnke@house.mn; 'Mike Jaros'; rep.neva.walker@house.mn; 'Gary Garbarino'; 'Michael Johnston'

Subject: Re: a St. Paul city candidate and sitting council member answers an important question...


I find your tactics trying. I know you are not happy with the present DFL administration. I also think your targeting of Susan Rego is completely offbase. My goal as a grassroots democratic organizer is to encourage people that I view as having healthy and balanced outlooks get involved. The democratic party is the people who are involved. A lot of us work very hard and do not necessarily agree with everything going on. Instead of being angry at what is happening and encouraging people to defect, I believe we should be angry and encourage more people to participate. The angry people need to use their anger to fuel action. They need to be participating to change the party from the inside, so they can make sure they set the agenda, they push the agenda, they move up from the inside, they replace administrators they do not agree with.

Encouraging rage that leads to non-participation will make it more likely Republicans will be successful--and that will not suit your purposed, either. Is it really better for Minnesota to have Pawlenty than Hatch? Better for our schools? Better for our healthcare? Better for teenagers who get pregnant? Better for our roads? Better for our environment? Better for working people? We need to work to get people involved, not just angry. The rants make people tune out.

Better to get people to the caucuses--tell them we need to change the party, train them on how to do it, find someone you think would make a better Party Chair, and organize to make this happen. We need more union people involved in my district (SD56--Stillwater/Woodbury.) This is what should be--the more good people involved, the better the DFL will get. Right now your e-mails are rage and threats and only make things worse. I know I sound idealistic--and I am idealistic, but I have a strong realistic streak. Why waste our energy in anger when there is so much to do? We need to funnel anger to constructive actions. Our idealistic side needs to be tempered by our pragmatic side, and we need to be extremely persistent as we plow along, through an extremely frustrating process and time. We need to make positive change happen.

Vivian Votava

-----Original Message-----

From: Alan Maki [mailto:amaki000@centurytel.net]

Sent: Thursday, August 30, 2007 12:05 PM

To: 'vivian votava'; '

lhinkle@peoplepc.com'; 'Christine Frank'; 'djrie@visi.com'; 'eric-angell@riseup.net'; 'David Shove'; 'DLONG@uaw.net'; 'Nadine Nosal'; 'gdubovich@usw.org'; 'lgerard@usw.org'; 'miaflcio@voyager.net'; 'charleyunderwood@hotmail.com'

Cc: 'rep.bill.hilty@house.mn'; 'rep.al.juhnke@house.mn'; 'Mike Jaros'; 'rep.neva.walker@house.mn'; 'Gary Garbarino'; 'Michael Johnston'; 'colemanayoungii@house.mi.gov'

Subject: An exchange of views... RE: a St. Paul city council candidate and sitting council member answers an important question...


I appreciate your response; although I disagree with most of it. Because I disagree with you does not mean I don’t respect you and your views. I do think dialogue is very healthy; democracy requires an open dialogue and exchange of views. It is with that in mind I respond to you.

First, there is life outside the Democratic Party-DFL. I welcome the opportunity to work in the Democratic Party-DFL and with others not in the DFL, or those now leaving the DFL.

Second, what brings me to the Democratic Party-DFL at this time is primarily the casino workers and the unions who pay me to do what I do. They pay me rather well to do what I do because they are satisfied with what I do and how I do it. The only thing different about me is that I openly acknowledge why I am involved in the Democratic Party-DFL, I have no hidden agenda as some others like the DFL Business Caucus and the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce and some others do.

All of us are involved because certain issues bring us here.

Third, I have not “targeted” Susan Rego. She made herself the bull’s-eye on the target when she arbitrarily, undemocratically and heavy-handedly barred me from participating on the DFL List Serve simply because I raised these issues. Preventing someone from bringing forward the issues does not make these issues go away. If it were so simple we wouldn’t be having this dialogue now.

I assume you agree, the issues I raise are very legitimate, even if you dislike my tactics and find them hard to take.

On the other hand, try to place yourself in the position of being one of the casino workers among some 60,000 between Minnesota and Michigan who go to their jobs in smoke-filled casinos at poverty wages and without any rights at work… which means you have no rights in the community where you live because if the employer doesn’t like you being an advocate for living wages, etc. you get fired with no recourse of action under any law.

Which begs the question: What can you and others in the Democratic Party-DFL do in order to right this wrong and blatant injustice for which Democratic-DFL controlled legislators are largely responsible. After all, Jennifer Granholm, in Michigan has just negotiated another of these Compacts without considering the rights of casino workers or the condition under which they work. Well, here a top Democratic Party politician had the opportunity to make a difference and set the pattern for all future Compact negotiations in much the same way the United Auto Workers union has set the pattern for collective bargaining in our country for all working people beginning with the historic Flint Sit Down Strike, along with the Steel Workers Union on the Iron Range; whom I might add, many Democrats found their “tactics very trying” at the time, I am sure. But, on this Labor Day those struggles will be hailed by Democrats as campaign contributions from these unions pour into their coffers--- well, maybe with the exception of UAW Local 879 representing workers at the Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant.

At some point, if you want me to consider your perspective, which I can assure you I can completely empathize with, you and others working as hard as you do in the Democratic Party-DFL are going to have to say something like this to your colleagues:

Ok, we got this Maki guy who is enraged and bad-mouthing us. What has triggered his anger? Is it he just makes peoples’ lives miserable for a living? Or, is there anything of substance we should be concerned about with what he is saying?

Now, if there is nothing of substance in what I am saying you can simply write me off as some kind of “nut case.” You need not even be concerned because no one is paying any attention to what I am saying… case closed.

However, if the situation of casino workers is as I am portraying it, and, if you don’t believe me you should look into it yourself… maybe walk into a casino… see if you observe much smoke… ask the employees how much they make… ask them what kind of rights they have. This is all very simple for anyone to do. Am I telling lies about all of this? I will let the facts speak for themselves.

Obviously I am telling the truth. If I am not it would be very easy to expose me as a liar… I have posted plenty on my blog… everything of which is there to be refuted, none of it has.

Don’t you find it unsettling that over two-thousand workers are losing their jobs at the Ford Plant and the UAW Local 879 used to be one of the major supporters of DFL and Democratic Party candidates and now when it comes to something so basic and so simple as the State Legislature taking action to save these jobs the legislation can not even get through a State Senate Committee dominated by Democrats?

Now, you ask me, wouldn’t we be better with Mike Hatch. Perhaps, but, given the DFL track record and the record of the Democratic sitting Governor in Michigan, I would not say “no” to your question… However, I do say it really doesn’t make any difference.

We had intended to run a campaign against Granholm like that which we ran against Hatch and Valerie Solem. After consulting with many labor leaders and especially rank and file activists in Michigan we decided not to. Plus, we really didn’t want to see Rich DeVos elected… he is the epitome of everything wrong with the corporate domination of our country… however, for casino workers, the outcome of the election really wouldn’t have mattered much just as Hatch’s election wouldn’t have helped much… he is adamantly opposed to casino workers having the same rights as all other workers--- he has stated this.

Plus, do you really believe Hatch’s election would have helped save the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant? If so, what prevented Mike Hatch from showing up at the Senate Committee hearing and backing the legislation that would have kept the Plant and Dam intact so that either a buyer could be found, or the issue of public ownership had been thoroughly explored--- which it has not. Why not? Don’t you think the Minnesota DFL at least owes this to the workers and their union which has been a foundation and base of support to first, the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party, and then the MN DFL? Anyways, nothing prevented Mike Hatch from showing up at this state senate hearing. He was a "no show." And, without getting through the Senate Committee, even if he had been elected Governor the legislation would not have come to his desk to sign.

Remember, these aren't Republicans opposing this legislation to save the Ford Plant, these are Democrats like Representative Michael Paymer.

Previously another member of the DFL State Central Committee asked me if the workers wanted to run the Ford Plant. I responded very honestly; I said I didn’t know… but, I also pointed out no one asked them this question. Would it be too much for Brian Melendez along with a delegation of legislators to walk through the Ford Plant asking workers this question and what they think of the idea of public ownership? Instead of doing this, we now learn from Kathy Lantry and another DFL candidate for St. Paul City Council they were never even asked any question about the Ford Plant during the DFL endorsing process. I would call this adding insult to injury if ever there was such a thing.

In addition we have the health care issues and the issue of the war in Iraq and many other issues that have gone unresolved. I don’t expect the Democratic Party or the Minnesota DFL to work miracles and solve all these problems. What I, and many others, do expect (well, many people, unlike me, have given up expecting anything from the DFL and Democratic Party) is that an effort be made to acknowledge, address, and then work to solve these problems.

I don’t know, how can I be more diplomatic or whatever it is in getting my points across in a way that will be listened to? Before our Organizing Committees took one single action I met with every single state legislator personally and Governor Pawlenty on this issue… you may ask Representative Bill Hilty, Tom Rukavina and others if you think what I am saying is not true.

You can’t solve a problem unless you first acknowledge the problem.

Has the Michigan Democratic Party or the Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party acknowledged the problems I have brought forward:

1.) The plight of casino workers;

2.) The Ford Plant closing?

No. Not even an acknowledgment these problems exist.

I would like to know from you, and the many others who have made their views known along the lines as you have to me, what is it you really want me to do? Should I just walk away, wring my hands, and say, “Oh well, they win”?

To be very honest with you, if the Michigan Democratic Party and the Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party will not provide an avenue to advance such issues of concern to working people I want no part of either.

Is this what I am now hearing? If so, I need a letter from Brian Melendez here in Minnesota and Steve Tobacman in Michigan stating that these issues are of no concern to the Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party and the Michigan Democratic Party… the Party organizations and the legislative caucuses.

With such a letter in hand I will walk away from the Democratic Party; but, not the issues… and then, well, I think you get the picture of where I am coming from… I have no anger. No disrespect for anyone. These are issues that have been placed on what I understand is a more than full plate… however, issues requiring immediate attention none-the-less… a Plant is scheduled to close and be demolished; casino workers are dropping dead from second-hand smoke related cancers, lung, and heart problems--- unless, of course, you think casino workers are somehow immune to the problems the scientific and medical community have made us so aware of.

I don’t mean for this to be taken as a letter of anger by you. But, neither should this letter be taken by you, or anyone else, to mean that I am smiling; because I am not.

The Democratic Party and the Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party will be involved in all kinds of Labor Day festivities this weekend, making endless speeches about the dignity of working men and women, about the alliance between labor and Democrats… through it all casino workers will be breathing in second-hand smoke without any rights, employed at poverty wages.

I appreciate the work you do in the Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party; I know you are sincerely concerned and want a better world for all of us to live in. Please raise your voice on the MN DFL State Central Committee and let your fellow State Central Committee members know there is a serious problem here.

As you can see this e-mail is going to leaders of both the United Steel Workers and the United Auto Workers… I am assuming a few of them might be making a speech or two during this Labor Day weekend… I am wondering if they will be including in their remarks reference to the plight of casino workers or those workers and the community faced with the closure of the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant; it will be interesting to see if they do.

My tactics may be “trying;” however, try breathing through lungs destroyed by second-hand smoke; try finding a job with wages and benefits like at the Ford Plant--- won through years of unrelenting and determined struggle to achieve a better life.

Happy Labor Day, yours in the struggle,

Alan L. Maki
Director of Organizing,
Midwest Casino Workers Organizing Council


Elected member, Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party State Central Committee

58891 County Road 13
Warroad, Minnesota 56763
Phone: 218-386-2432
Cell phone: 651-587-5541
E-mail: amaki000@centurytel.net

Check out my blog:

Thoughts From Podunk


-----Original Message-----

From: kathy.lantry@comcast.net [mailto:kathy.lantry@comcast.net]

Sent: Tuesday, August 28, 2007 8:48 AM

To: Alan Maki

Subject: Re: Question...

I have received UAW endorsement in the past. I have not heard from them yet
this year.



-------------- Original message --------------

From: "Alan Maki"

Have you received the endorsement of UAW Local 879 representing Ford workers
in this election?

Have you received UAW endorsement in the past?

Alan L. Maki

58891 County Road 13

Warroad, Minnesota 56763

Phone: 218-386-2432

Cell phone: 651-587-5541

E-mail: amaki000@centurytel.net

Check out my blog:

Thoughts From Podunk


Monday, August 27, 2007

St. Paul City Council Election and the future of the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant

Dear St. Paul City Council candidate;

I represent a group of concerned citizens from across Minnesota, many of whom reside in St. Paul; and, who will be voting for St. Paul City Council candidates.

We will be getting out the views of all candidates concerning their stand on this issue and what they think should be done with the Ford Plant.

This is a primary, if not the primary, issue of the campaign.

Where there are no responses we will take this to mean the candidate does not care about the future of the plant; and, this will be so noted.

To provide you with some back-ground information from various perspectives feel free to click the link below and check out this blog on the issue:


Candidates might want to spend some time talking with Ford workers and UAW 879 elected officials about how they view the pending closing of the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant before responding; we look forward to sharing your response with residents of St. Paul and voters.

This is a primary issue for St. Paul residents… random exit surveys we conducted at polling places during the last election indicated voters were very dissatisfied candidates for governor and state legislative races did not address this important issue; we assume this means voters expect candidates for City Council will certainly provide their views on this issue before Election Day.

Some of the topics you may want to comment on:

1.) There is a lot of talk about job creation; however, it is very difficult to create 2,000 good paying jobs where workers are protected by a union. We are expecting any candidate who is for the demolition of the Ford Plant to explain how another 2,000 jobs with similar wages and benefits will be created in the City of St. Paul.

2.) We would also like your position on the Ford Dam, and if you intend to oppose the sale of this dam to a foreign company? If so, what steps will you take, and advocate the City of St. Paul takes?

3.) Would you support the continuing operation of the Ford Plant and Dam under public ownership? Would you support public bodies using the right of eminent domain for this purpose? If not, what are the other options?

4.) Do you feel Ford workers should be a part of this decision making process concerning the future of the Ford Plant?

5.) Do you feel the citizens should have the right to determine what is done with the Ford Dam and who should own it?

6.) Do you agree with the position of the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce on this issue?

You may want to comment on this statement:

To date, all efforts made by public officials, the union, and others to keep this plant operating have failed. The one option that has not been considered is that of Public Ownership; an option which has worked very successfully in saving industries and jobs all over the world. The plant could continue producing pick-up trucks or “green” related devices like components for wind generating equipment, solar devices, and public transit. Continuing to produce a fuel efficient, environmentally friendly pick-up for use by construction companies, farmers, small business, and the outdoor recreational community would make the most sense. Public ownership could be considered as a long-tern solution or as a measure until a new corporate owner of the plant can be found. Obviously, an operating plant is worth much more than an abandoned building. Workers and management have negotiated, over the years, to make this plant a “clean, green, environmentally friendly operation” in many ways… closing and demolishing this plant just when it has become a model for industrial production makes little sense to most people. There are worse things the government spends our tax-dollars on… the war in Iraq being one.

While we are focused on saving the Ford Plant and Dam, we are concerned about the direction of the Ford Site Planning Committee in that upscale housing seems to be the objective while there is a need for racially integrated, quality, affordable public housing for the presently employed low-wage workers in St. Paul, most of whom have to travel long distances to their jobs for which they are receiving minimum wages working at establishments like Lund’s Supermarket on Ford Parkway and cleaning floors in upscale jewelry stores like Moeller.

Responses received after September 20, 2007 will be ignored.

(Please note: All candidates who did not list an e-mail address have been contacted by phone and asked to respond.)

Thank you for taking the time to respond.

Alan L. Maki

Member, Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party State Central Committee

58891 County Road 13

Warroad, Minnesota 56763

Phone: 218-386-2432

Cell phone: 651-587-5541

E-mail: amaki000@centurytel.net

Check out my blog:

Thoughts From Podunk


This was e-mailed to the following candidates:

'info@melvincarter.org'; 'sharon4anderson@aol.com'; 'bill4dahn@aol.com'; 'franzambforcitycouncil@gmail.com'; 'billhosko@yahoo.com'; 'patforcouncil@comcast.net'; 'russ@russforward4.org'; 'bushardforcouncil@comcast.net'; 'thor8851@yahoo.com'; 'helgen00005@hotmail.com'; 'pakouh@aol.com'; 'andersonforward5@aol.com'; 'kathy.lantry@comcast.net'; 'jim.casci@comcast.net'

Further contact and info on the candidates can be found by links from this site:


Or contacting:

Sherri Nesseth

Ramsey County Elections

50 West Kellogg Boulevard, Suite 722

St. Paul, MN 55102

Phone: 651.266.2207

Fax: 651.266.2177


This was sent to the following newspapers, you make want to contact them and encourage coverage of this issue:







Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The I-35W Bridge... two views

This was sent to David Shove's "Progressive Calendar"

Even though it was not published in the "Progressive Calendar" it received wide circulation.

To Subscribe to Shove's "Progressive Calendar," write: - David Shove shove001@tc.umn.edu

Shove rhymes with clove Progressive Calendar
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I have noticed that in your Progressive Calendar you tend to ignore local issues during a period when people could be effectively organizing around specific local issues, only to condemn the consequences after our chance to act have passed; and, columnists like James Clay Fuller write about things in general, like about infrastructure and dams but never get to local specifics (please see Fuller's blog below).

In this case I would note the Ford Dam powering the St. Paul Twin Cities Ford Assembly Plant which has been heavily subsidized by tax-payers since it was initially built in one way or another--- either through direct government handouts or tax abatements, or simply allowing Ford to use a public resource without compensating the community in any way. Actually, ditto for the manufacturing plant and the equipment inside of it, too. I notice the concept of “public ownership” is seldom broached as a solution.

I would think in an article that, on the surface, appears to be so thorough in covering “everything;” what is being completely ignored by the media, the bloggers, and the politicians in pointing out what is going under our radar, concealed by the “surface” as in the case of the I-35-W Bridge--- one of the first things which should be brought forward is the fact of how much money tax-payers are already coughing up for bridges, roads, and other infrastructure repairs, routine maintenance, replacement and new construction; and pointing out the fact that the architectural firms and contractors in this sector are second only to the military-financial-industrial complex in feeding at the public trough as tax-payers subsidize their huge and obscene profits.

Caterpillar Corporation makes big profits selling its huge, used bulldozers no longer of use in road construction for which they have already been paid the cost of this equipment many times over by tax-payers--- by selling this written-off, junk equipment to Israel for bulldozing over Palestinian homes and an American protester on occasion.

If corporate profits were to be eliminated by doing all of this work through real public works projects without the hand of private industry in the mix in the first place, all this work could be done for much less and at a great savings to tax-payers--- where is there a real tax-payers league when you need them?.

Second, the entire highway system of roads and bridges is a farce in this country as public transit never even is considered as the main and primary way to transport people… just stand on any highway overpass in the Cities on any given morning or evening and look at all the vehicles with only one person in it… wasting all kinds of resources from what is consumed in building the vehicles to the fuel they are using to building the extensive and high priced highway system to begin with. Think about it… what do most people use transportation for these days--- to get to work. Vacations? Who needs an automobile for vacations any more; vacations are a thing of the past as many working people now have to have a second job just to pay for the gas to get to their first job; and, even a third job to pay a lawyer to file for bankruptcy or to fight against a home foreclosure as another set of rip-off artists posing as your friendly lending institution take away what has been referred to as a working person’s greatest investment in the capitalist system.

All of these people could be happily using an efficient mass transit system. There is no longer any justification for transporting wage-slaves to and from their places of employment in private automobiles… especially since there are so many automobiles being produced overseas with even cheaper labor by people living in tar paper shacks and tin hovels within walking distance of their jobs making cars for us.

It is not like such a mass transit system is all that difficult to create. One only has to experience the mass transit systems of Vancouver, British Columbia; Toronto, Ontario; or Montreal, Quebec to understand that it really is possible to create a very high quality and efficient mass transit system which can take you where ever you want to go--- from suburb to city, and, even from city to city… I was able to get to a labor/Communist Party sponsored rally against racism from downtown Vancouver to Burnaby, British Columbia in minutes using public transit. I was able to ride the transit system for twenty- four hours sight-seeing in Toronto after meeting with the federal Minister of Immigration trying to deport me before getting off the bus for the Canadian Labour Party Convention for less than two dollars! In Montreal I traveled from the monument erected in the memory of Doctor Norman Bethune the Canadian Communist Party member who is widely considered a hero in Canada who gave birth to the modern movement for socialized health care to participate in a demonstration of unity with hundreds of Kurdish Communists who were protesting at the Israeli consulate; again, costing me just over one dollar--- and after Montreal’s finest on horse-back got done beating us all up… I was able to continue on my way using my transfer riding around the city for the rest of the day.

There is but one obstacle to creating a truly sensible, peaceful, and safe way of living: capitalism, which turns every single thing into a question---- of not what is best for people, society, and the environment--- but into a question of what is most profitable for corporations.

Liberals like James Clay Fuller and the Greens just aren’t capable of making these connections in a way that we can educate, organize, and mobilize people to take united action around issues like saving the Ford Plant and the Ford Dam. You are always willing to talk about the generalities and for some reason those generalities you can always spin into making it look like a comprehensive assessment even though you leave out of your equations discussion of the very specific at the local level, and fail to include the general thrust of everything centering around corporate profits; these corporate profits, and how they are generated through the exploitation of labor, are seldom spoken of--- so seldom, in fact, one would have as difficult time seeing this aspect as much as any motorist would have a difficult time seeing for herself/himself the true condition of any bridge they cross on their way to and from work.

I found it very interesting that James Clay Fuller could write what at first glance appears to be such a wonderful and comprehensive look at that which is not being discussed; but, then, upon thinking, I had to ask myself why would such a comprehensive piece like this not make any mention of that which the media really hides, like the surface of the I-35-W Bridge hid from motorists, its real condition?

It seems there is constant pressure to keep the real truth from the people; be it the condition of the bridges we need to go across daily; or, what really is the underlying problem of it all… a rotten capitalist system.

And then we throw our hands up in the air and wonder why people are willing to put up with everything from this dirty war in Iraq to collapsing bridges to the Ford Plant being leveled to make way for high-rise condos working people in the area receiving poverty wages will not be able to afford as they have to pay through the nose at the pumps and drive in to work over bridges that are in disrepair and collapsing; creating a system where legislators boast of legislating smoke-free environments--- supported by the Greens--- yet, almost two-million casino workers in this country continue to go to their jobs in smoke-filled casinos without any rights because these same politicians who let the I-35-W Bridge collapse are the ones who have negotiated the Compacts creating these casinos where greedy, money-grubbing capitalists pay these politicians off for their “services” in the manner of the construction firms and the merchants of death and destruction.

Yes, once in a while this gets challenged in the Progressive Calendar like when Michael Parenti’s book was reviewed… the exposure of this rotten system and how all of this is integrally connected in a complex web spun by capitalism which has advanced to its barbaric and cannibalistic stage is seldom, very seldom, exposed or mentioned.

Unless people, especially working people, are educated to the true nature of this rotten capitalist system and its most decadent stage of imperialism we will continue to see bridges collapse and our entire infrastructure go to hell as the corporations profit by exploiting labor and feeding like pigs at the public trough building bridges in the most profitable manner rather than in the interest of public safety... like the Kansas City mob and the casino business, the capitalists “skim” the cream from everything… leaving us nothing of substance; then claiming the cream isn’t healthy for us anyways so they are actually doing us a favor.

I am sorry… I didn’t even mention the health care system… I sure hope those hundred or so people injured in the I-35-W Bridge collapse had the maximum auto insurance if they don’t have any health insurance; or they are likely to be losing their homes to pay the medical bills… and now there is one less bridge for them to sleep under.

Let’s keep playing games with the health care issue, too, by telling people we are for single-payer, universal health care and assuring them we are not on the road to socialized health care; again hiding the real problem just like the Minnesota Department of Transportation failed to disclose to the general public the true condition of the I-35-W Bridge--- until after it collapsed.

We have such an open and democratic society… the world’s great bastion of democracy where a government is so free with the information our tax-dollars pay some private consulting firm to collect because the government official who has pulled themselves up by their bootstraps in kissing the ass of some political hack has found a nice cushy job working for the government but is a complete incompetent in doing anything other then passing the boss an envelope with a campaign contribution every few years… and then these pathetic excuses who pass themselves off as human beings tell us the “public sector” has failed and we need to hire private contractors to run the government for us.

Until a Bridge like the I-35-W collapses this entire bunch of parasites is allowed to get on with their daily routines without any accountability what-so-ever.

Gees, speaking of things “collapsing” and the truth being told to people in order to protect themselves from crashing into the Mighty Mississippi River and being buried in the debris as they are on their way home from being exploited… when are we going to talk about how the capitalist system comes crashing down in depressions every so often… are there any large cracks in the economic system that remain hidden from view we should be worried about?

Oh, I forgot… no need to worry, we working people have experts doing our thinking for us… no need for working class think tanks like Communist Party Clubs anymore, these are relics of the past to be buried in obscure cemeteries along with the Red Finns of the Iron Range--- all relics of the past from when there used to be a class struggle in America; but now we all get along just fine with the ruling capitalist class. Toss out the books by Karl Marx and don’t wear t-shirts with Lenin’s or Che’s likenesses on them because we lose all credibility; and, we lose our ever so important friends “friends” in the Democratic Party. Abandon Marxism which could take a closer look at all of this and prepare us for what is in store and get us ready to prevent another “bridge” of sorts from collapsing… capitalism has a few cracks, a little rot here and there; but, nothing we need to be too concerned about at the moment. Ya, sure… you betcha. If you believe any of these problems will be solved under capitalism, I have a nice I-35-W Bridge I would like to sell you… at a “sub”stantially reduced, almost submerged, price.

You know, I heard John Sweeney, the President of the AFL-CIO talk in glowing terms about how great it was that the Canadian Labour Congress backs the New Democratic Party--- the socialist oriented labour party in Canada; the problem is, he made his remarks in Toronto at the Canadian Labour Congress convention… what does he do before fifteen-thousand trade unionists assembled at Wrigley Field in Chicago? He stands with a bunch of dumb donkeys like Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton.

Alan L. Maki

58891 County Road 13

Warroad, Minnesota 56763

Phone: 218-386-2432

Cell phone: 651-587-5541

E-mail: amaki000@centurytel.net

Check out my blog:

Thoughts >From Podunk



Jim FULLER is a retired veteran journalist, 30 years with the
Minneapolis Star Tribune, as their business reporter. He now has a blog

at http://www/jamesclayfuller.com/

Monday, August 06, 2007

Infrastructure funding: abridged too far

by: Jim Fuller


The collapse of that Hwy. I35W bridge across the Mississippi in downtown
Minneapolis could have, and should have, big-time consequences, but I
have yet to see any mention of what may be the most significant of the
likely long-term outcomes.

They involve further cuts to programs and systems necessary to the
well-being of most citizens -- not, as you might expect, improvements.

For now, of course, there is a Greek chorus chanting about how we must
not talk about blame, nor outcomes; we must simply honor the losses of
those who were directly affected by the terrible event.

It's not difficult to understand such feelings, particularly in
Minnesota, where people do tend to rush to the aid of others in times of
emergency – even if they are among those who ignore pedestrians in
crosswalks and run red lights at other times – but it should be noted
that the loudest of those condemning “the blame game,” are those on the
right whose favorite politicians deserve to be in career-ending trouble
over this mess.

Those who cry “Don't bring politics into it,” are the same people who
most surely were figuring a way to cover their sorry asses within 10
minutes of hearing of the tragedy.

Politics is in it, has to be in it, because it is the political and
social views of a powerful minority in our society that got us into the
mess we're in now with a rapidly failing infrastructure.

It is their political maneuvering that is likely to trade on the
Minneapolis bridge collapse to lead us further down the road toward the
ruination of American democracy, along with America's roads, bridges,
dams, transit, communications, air travel, utilities and other systems.

They are the same people who created the circumstances under which our
bridge, or some other bridge, or a dam, or an airplane, simply had to
fall down.

The Star Tribune's Nick Coleman is the only commentator, local or
national, I've seen to address that fact head on, and he obviously has
been taking considerable heat from the “Don't talk blame” phonies.
Unfortunately, Coleman is like others with public platforms who have yet
to recognize the worst of the likely consequences.

Here's what we're almost sure to see when the talk has died down and the
network and cable news crews have gone back east:

First, the promised federal funding to rebuilding the Minneapolis I35
bridge will come through – though maybe not as promptly nor as
adequately as promised under the scrutiny of television cameras.

But not too far down the road, the White House and its sycophants in
Congress will begin a push to “privatize” more of our infrastructure.
The argument, bolstered by millions of dollars worth of propaganda
provided by industry, will be that government simply can't afford to
maintain public highways and major bridges at a safe and efficient
level. Our collapsed bridge will be cited as proof of that claim.

Therefore – ahem – we should sell those bridges and roads and suchlike
burdens at very low prices to corporations that are courageously
offering to take them off our hands and run them as toll roads and bridges.

The propaganda will not mention – nor will most of the undertrained
scribes who pass themselves off as journalists these days – that the
tolls, in providing enormous profits for the corporations, will cost us
far more, in perpetuity, than would the taxes to bring our
infrastructure up to acceptable levels.

Neither will there be any notice of the fact that by turning roads and
bridges and other public assets into businesses, the rich, the corporate
elite, get a permanent protection against paying their fair share of
taxes. The poor and middle class tax rate will, in effect, rise,
however, because tolls will, in the long run, cost us more than adequate

I know this is coming, because the push began long before the
Minneapolis bridge collapsed, though it's still largely under the public
radar -- and anyone who knows anything about news, selling and marketing
knows that those who seek to turn the entire country over to profiteers
simply cannot let such an opportunity pass.

Second, dead certain, outcome:

There will be a strong effort to pull money away from public
transportation, especially light rail transit, to fund some repairs to
roads and bridges.

This is an opportunity the right will not miss. Despite occasional
claims to the contrary, they despise public transit; they don't use it,
they have a deeply emotional fear of being “forced” from their cars onto
trains and buses with the great unwashed, they mostly live in burbs
which public transportation doesn't effectively reach, and some major
funders of right wing politicians, notably executives of the oil and
auto industries, are enraged by efforts to increase use of public

Third certain outcome:

Both the Republicans in Washington and Minnesota's neocon governor, his
department heads and the right wing extremists who still hold many seats
in our state legislature, will block every move to start repairing our
crumbling infrastructure that doesn't include “practical measures” to
“keep spending within reasonable limits.”

What that means, bluntly, is further cuts to virtually every state
service that aids the poor, children, elderly citizens, anyone who now
relies on state aid for survival at some level.

It also means further cuts in funding for education at all levels – a
favorite target of those right wingers through the years they controlled
the legislature – and for aid to cities. If the right wins this battle,
the burden of paying for such already tragically sagging services as
police and fire departments will be shifted further to property taxes
and away from income taxes, which have been cut substantially for the
state's richest residents.

They have a good chance of winning, given the usual weak-willed, feeble
responses of Democrats to such attacks on the public good.

As widely reported in the past week, almost 600,000 road bridges in the
United States are classified as “deficient” by the American Society of
Civil Engineers. But as the coverage of the Minneapolis mess dies down,
we'll start to be told, over and over, that “deficient” really doesn't
mean dangerous until a bridge actually falls down.

Not so widely reported, but still out there, is the fact that one third
of our country's dams are rated as “hazardous.” I won't take the space
to list examples, but if you want an idea of what that can and at some
unknown point will mean here, Google “failed dams” or “dam collapses” or
some such.

It's possible we'll see a move to sell our publicly owned dams, too.

Another disaster that will (not just “may”) occur at any time is a major
airline crash, or two or three.

There have been numerous reports on the disastrous state of our air
traffic control system – overworked and undertrained controllers,
grossly outdated computer systems and more. If it isn't completely
overhauled, soon and, yes, at great expense, the crashes are coming.
Should we somehow avoid that for another year or two or three, it will
be only because of heroic efforts on the part of the remaining competent
controllers -- who are bailing out at a fearsome rate, by the way.

The anti-government, anti-tax right is responsible for all of these
messes. Our president, our mad vice president, the right wing nutters in
Congress, are as responsible for the deaths and maimings that have
occurred and that will occur in result of neglect of our infrastructure
just as surely at they are responsible for the horrors in Iraq.

Our governor and his sponsors, the Minnesota Taxpayers League, and their
servants in the legislature are responsible for all sorts of human pain
because of their program cuts. We have fewer cops on city streets
because of them, more kids are going without medical care because of
them, more young people are unable to afford college because of them,
and so much more.

At the moment, talking about the bridge, they're singing a different
dirge, but it's an act. Any course changing they're doing is only minor,
and temporary.

Our governor, Tim Pawlenty, slavish servant of the Taxpayers League, is
playing statesman at the moment, in the most obvious and phony way possible.

At first he lied blatantly, proclaiming that 2005 and 2006 bridge
inspections showed that there were “no structural defects” in the I35
bridge. He backed down quickly on that after being caught.

He ordered inspection of all bridges in the state, with immediate
attention to a handful that are of the same type as the one that went
down. He is being sympathetic to the people who were hurt and the
families of those who were killed or injured. He is pledging quick
replacement for the bridge, and generally doing a good job of following
the politicians' script for such events.


Carol Molnau, Pawlenty's lieutenant governor, whom he also appointed as
commissioner of the state's Department of Transportation, is firmly and
repeatedly proclaiming that despite the thousands of bridges in the
state that also are known to be “deficient,” and few of which have
repairs or replacement scheduled, her department is doing a fine job.

She insists on that even though the Star Tribune and some national news
outfits have reported that the department knowingly rejected
recommendations for adding steel plates to reinforce the bridge that
went down because, and only because, it was cheaper just to inspect it
more often.

She also had her chin jutting out when pushed on the need for further
spending now that the true dangers of deteriorating bridges have been

“We put together a system in this state that addresses the needs that we
have within the fiscal restraints we have, as well,” she was quoted as
saying by the Strib.

Note: Many of those “fiscal restraints” exist only because of Republican
cuts in taxes paid by the rich, and because Pawlenty and the rest of the
Republican crew have squeezed spending on infrastructure until there is
no juice left.

And then there is Mary Liz Holberg, a Republican senator from semi-rural
Lakeville, a still powerful member of the Senate Transportation
Committee, who grew visibly angry on Minnesota public television's
“Almanac” a couple of days after the bridge collapse when one of the
show's hosts tried to get her to admit that much more spending on
infrastructure, and bridges in particular, is necessary.

Democrats must give in on a number of Republican demands for cuts in
other programs before her party can agree to pay for making bridges
safe, she insisted, though she didn't phrase it quite that way.

“Something will get done,” she repeated two or three times, but she
wouldn't say what, and she still insisted that the money had to come
from elsewhere in the state budget because Republicans will not allow
tax increases (or taking back substantial cuts they gave the rich).
Fixes in funding of infrastructure repairs “can't happen overnight,” she
said, and “We still have to respect the family budget,” which is
Republican code for “hold taxes on the rich to a bare minimum.”

Conclusion: The right wingers in the legislature will stall, obfuscate,
dig in and refuse to fund even bridge repair, let alone other badly
needed infrastructure fixes, unless the Democrats cave in and agree to
take the money from the usual places: education, food programs, health
care programs and the like.

The only thing that could change that is honest and complete press
coverage of every ploy and a resulting public outcry of considerable volume.

Don't hold your breath.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Another thought and exchange of opinion with a UAW official... concerning the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant

Note: For more background on this issue check out my blog:


You will probably find this blog to be among the most comprehensive places to find information on this issue.

-----Original Message-----

From: Alan Maki [ amaki000@centurytel.net ]

Sent: Wednesday, August 15, 2007 10:04 AM

To: Lynn Hinkle [ lhinkle@peoplepc.com ]

Cc: Thomas Kurhajetz [ thomaskurhajetz@frontiernet.net ]

Subject: Another thought... concerning the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant


I have some concerns about the role of the United Auto Workers union leadership--- locally, the regional leadership, and the national leadership--- particularly the role of Dick Long, the national chair of UAW-CAP (United Auto Workers-Community Action Program)who seems to want to be kept apprised of my activities in Michigan and Minnesota for some unexplained reason. Since Dick Long has apparently not demonstrated an interest in keeping the Ford Plant open, you can understand why I am wondering what his interest would be in my activities here in Minnesota. Dick has not demonstrated much of an interest in advancing the rights of casino workers in Michigan, so I don't know what his interest is there, either.

I think we need to consider some kind of “open letter” to the Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party on this issue… one which lets them know people are unhappy with a DFL dominated Legislative Caucus which can not move legislation to save the Ford Plant through a DFL dominated Senate Committee on the one hand along with a “gentle” reminder the DFL now has an added responsibility to act aggressively on this issue in a timely manner while they have domination of both the House and Senate with an important election coming up.

I don’t think it is right that the DFL leadership would place this Plant in jeopardy by now telling the UAW to stick with us and help us expand our majority in the Senate and the House because this is subjecting the future of working people to a “crap shoot.” No one knows what the next election might bring.

We should notify DFL legislators we are circulating the "open letter" so they know building a movement to save the Ford Plant is underway; I think we should keep this letter brief and simple… circulate it for a couple months among activists, in the communities throughout Minnesota, and in the Ford Plant for rank and file workers to sign onto.

I recently received a letter from the Chair of the Pine County DFL--- Thomas Kurhajetz (thomaskurhajetz@frontiernet.net) asking if Ford workers were prepared and interested in taking on the role of running this plant if kept open under some scheme of public ownership--- whether through some type of worker/legislative proposal or a joint partnership with say the Chinese (perhaps Cubans and Venezuelans). I think this is a very legitimate question and the type of letter I am suggesting would help to answer his question.

I think it rather obvious we need such grassroots community and rank and file initiative in order to combat the role of the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce in all of this whose members obviously have several reasons for wanting to see large-scale industrial production come to an end at the Ford Plant because this will help to drive wages down in the surrounding area, and very influential real-estate speculators active in the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce stand to make a killing on this entire deal. Members of the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce exert tremendous influence within the Minnesota DFL through the DFL Business Caucus.

Apparently the DFL Party leadership and the DFL Legislative Caucus have been reluctant to respond because they are getting too many mixed signals from the UAW local and national leadership. On one hand the lawyer for the UAW sits on the Ford Site Planning Committee and has been quite silent on keeping the plant a manufacturing facility; on the other hand, the local UAW leadership failed to approach the Minnesota House or Senate with the full weight of the membership backing them up in these two committee hearings; with the Senate hearing turning into a complete fiasco and defeat for the proposed legislation package put together by Senator Cohen. I think maybe the DFL Party and Legislative Caucus leaderships are getting the idea the UAW was merely going through some motions without any intent to follow through. This would certainly be in keeping with an “all talk, no action” attributed to the UAW Administrative (Reuther faction) Caucus of Ron Gettlefinger.

We should be aware of a few problems:

One, the UAW local leadership has apparently given up any hope of saving this plant and has become rather bitter from what I have been told regarding the MN DFL; unfortunately the MN DFL is our only hope of saving the Ford Plant and we are going to have to muster tremendous grassroots community involvement along with rank and file worker activity in the Plant to mount the kind of pressure needed to over come the influence of the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce and the DFL Business Caucus;

Two, the UAW local has not raised the issue of public ownership;

Three, the UAW through its attorney who is on the Ford Site Planning Committee has refused to challenge the devious and very racist planning methods used by this Ford Site Planning Committee in that even the proposed housing scheme is designed, by intent, to circumvent integrated housing while allowing one of the most successfully integrated plants to close.

This housing scheme is based upon maximizing the profits of the Ford Motor Company and real-estate speculators; bringing into question the role of Merritt Clapp-Smith who obviously has a conflict of interest in all of this.

As you are aware, Merritt Clapp-Smith has refused to address my questions put to her regarding her family’s role in the Twin Cities real-estate market. Apparently the investigators for the City of St. Paul whose job it is to investigate such claims of conflict of interest are either taking their sweet old time in conducting the investigation they informed me they would be undertaking--- until after the dirty work has been done; or, they have swept this under the rug.

Since the Clapp family has a history of under-handed and even illegal real-estate dealings this makes the call for Merritt Clapp-Smith’s role in all of this even more necessary to explore the aspect of a “conflict” of interest.

There is also the aspect of the “fiduciary” responsibilities of public officials which would seem to have been “over-looked” in this entire matter.

I also think this Apollo Alliance needs to become involved in this struggle to save the Ford Plant along with those who attended the Cornell University forum (A North American Labor Assembly on Climate Crisis: Building a Global Movement for Clean Energy) which could give this issue an international perspective since the issues of climate change and capitalist globalization figure prominently in this issue.

The United Steel Workers union President Leo Girard and the head of the Sierra Club, Carl Pope were in the Twin Cities quite some time ago demonstrating concern for the future of the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant, however we haven't seen anything of the two since. And, David Foster, the former USW Regional Director--- now replaced by Bob Bratulich--- is a very prominent figure in the Apollo Alliance. So far, I have not heard any of them address the issue of using public ownership to save the Ford Plant.

To me, it doesn't seem logical to continue talking about "saving the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant" knowing the politicians and others have given up on finding another corporate owner for the Plant; and, then, refusing to follow through on putting forward public ownership which is the only alternative remaining.

I also think we need to find a way to link up with those who have developed what appears to be a mass auto-worker/community response to a similar situation in Windsor, Ontario.

I have Bcc’ed this e-mail to a number of others including a number of UAW rank and file activists around the Midwest and some members of Soldiers of Solidarity who have asked me to keep them up to speed on what is taking place around this issue.

You might be interested in a letter I sent to Dick Long on another matter available on my blog:


Below is a sample leaflet I have sent out to a group of people who have expressed interest in public ownership of the Ford Plant. I am suggesting it be circulated inside the Ford Plant to find out if there is interest on the part of Ford workers in their running this plant while under public ownership since Thomas Kurhajetz, the MN DFL Chair for Pine County, has now raised this very important, basic, and fundamental question. I think his question bares out the fact that interest in saving the Ford Plant concerns many Minnesotans. Obviously, unless Ford workers, members of UAW Local 879, have a chance to discuss this issue we will never know the answer to his question expressed, very bluntly, in an e-mail to me:

So Alan have the workers at the Ford Plant expressed an interest in running the plant?

Tom Ktz.

I answered:

Not yet... but then again, no one asked them.

I also think we need to find a way to legally challenge the sale of the Ford Dam which has been an integral part--- and reason for--- Ford's very profitable long-time venture in the Twin Cities.

It would be unfair for a publicly owned enterprise to be hobbled with having to pay for the same electricity the Ford Motor Company has had access to for free all these years since the Plant was built... compliments of Minnesota tax-payers.

That this hydro producing Ford Dam is being sold to a foreign corporation, thus allowing yet another corporation to be in control of our energy resources, is of further concern at a time when there is a stated objective to be free of foreign domination in the energy producing field.

I noticed in your article on the need to save the Ford Plant the concept of public ownership is missing, also.


Alan L. Maki
58891 County Road 13
Warroad, Minnesota 56763
Phone: 218-386-2432
Cell phone: 651-587-5541
E-mail: amaki000@centurytel.net

Check out my blog:

Thoughts From Podunk



Sample leaflet:

Do you find it strange--- living in the world's greatest democracy--- no one has asked YOU if you are interested in keeping this plant and dam intact, and operating? Has anyone asked YOU if you might be interested running this plant in order to save your job, and the jobs of future generations of working people here in the Twin Cities if this St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant were to be placed under public ownership through state legislative mandate?

Who should be asking YOU this question?

Union leaders to begin with.

The Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party, for sure.

The members of the Ford Site Planning Committee.

St. Paul and Minneapolis city council members.

State and federal legislators.

The news media.

If you are interested in the concept of Public Ownership, we can work together in some kind of "Ad Hoc Committee" composed of community activists and rank and file union activists from this plant...

We would like to talk to you about what we can do together.

Let's get acquainted and discuss our options.

As residents of the community, community activists, and fellow workers employed throughout the area we are fully aware that your struggles over the years have contributed to all of us living better lives, too.

We need not wait for so-called "leaders" to act... rank and file working class activists like Phil Raymond and Brother Bill McKie built the UAW... time is of the essence... the real-estate speculators have the wrecking balls moving in.

A citizens' initiative to Save the Ford Plant is called for; a citizens', grassroots initiative might be able to save the Ford Plant.

In Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) and community activists did just this... they convinced the government to go along with the idea and the farm implement manufacturing business is doing better than it ever did under Ford ownership.

We have already wasted a great deal of time waiting for others to do something for us and they haven't delivered in saving this plant.

We need to act quickly without further delay... we have waited far too long already waiting for community, union, and political leaders to act... the next step is ours to take.

We can all see what we get when we wait for so-called "leaders" to do anything for us... we need look no further than the I-35W Bridge submerged in the Mississippi River.


Lynn Hinkle wrote the following article:

Ford site could be the launching pad for green manufacturing in Minnesota


TwinCities.com-Pioneer Press

Making the most of the Ford site won't happen with business- or labor- or governance-as-usual. And, as we rebuild our economy in sync with our environment, it's worth noting that some local union folks began working on that years ago - at the Ford plant.

Without fanfare, UAW Local 879 worked for more than 10 years to creatively maximize the assets of Ford's Twin Cities Assembly Plant in St. Paul.

These efforts worked. As a result, the life of the plant with its good jobs was extended, until a year ago Ford announced plans to close the plant in 2008.

Now, those creative efforts by Local 879 should help frame the choices for the mayor's Ford Site Task Force, which has been asked to recommend a redevelopment plan.
Those choices include a range of options, from simply maintaining the Ford plant's premier green manufacturing capabilities to enabling complementary enhancements.

A big problem, however, is Ford's near-term effort to sell its electricity-generating dam on the Mississippi. Selling the dam separate from the rest of the site would narrow the Ford Site Task Force's options - from creating a range of world-class green manufacturing possibilities to overseeing brown-field infill.

Here's why this is especially troubling:

In large part because of the Ford plant's clean hydro power, a stable, vibrant, mixed-use community has grown around it in St. Paul.

But in many other U.S. communities, although it sustained families and built cities, manufacturing has lost its appeal. It has become the object of a NIMBY - "not-in-my-backyard" - groundswell.

This NIMBY attitude has given more-than-subtle support for the off-shoring of U.S. manufacturing capacity. The result has been a decline in manufacturing jobs here and in environmental quality where the facilities relocated.

Years ago, UAW Local 879 saw these forces working against manufacturing. Instead of resting on what was already one of the world's greenest manufacturing platforms, we moved to make it more sustainable. Some of St Paul and Minnesota's best manufacturing jobs were at stake. Proactively, we set out to improve the Ford plant's market position with a framework that's now understood as "sustainability."

For example:

• The local negotiated with Ford to create a one-of-its-kind work week agreement that reduced the Ford plant's carbon footprint and created new revenue from the hydro power.

• At roughly the same time, the local began a collaborative effort to add another asset to our Ford plant: an onsite training center. With resources from the state and the UAW, the center provided leading-edge robotics skills to Ford workers and Minnesota college students.

By the normal standards, the Ford plant workforce was recognized for its sustained high quality and productivity. But adding value where none had existed before was connecting dots no one else had even seen.

• In 2005, the local again took the initiative, this time to create production flexibility that helped make the most of the hydro power. Manufacturing almost anything on that site, because of its clean power, would represent an advantage in a greening economy. But the local also proposed a plan for a green product from this highly sustainable plant.

The idea was to produce green products, like flex-fuel Rangers, from our already-green plant. The idea was meant to keep manufacturing jobs in St Paul by giving Ford a stunning launch into a future being rapidly reshaped by demands for carbon reduction.

The problem was getting Ford to see how a green product from a green plant could dramatically meet and reshape an already growing sustainability market.

Unlike Ford, the state aligned with this vision. It created a Task Force on Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles. Representing a broad range of interests, that Task Force met regularly at the UAW hall to map out state deployment of plug-in hybrids and possible production of hybrids or other green products at the Ford plant.

The idea here is this: St. Paul has tremendous potential to press its manufacturing advantage in an increasingly green marketplace.

Manufacturing vehicles involving clean-fuel technology at St Paul's premier green plant would be a clear expression of the green product/green plant vision. But the opportunity for green products goes beyond the next generation of personal transportation.

The Ford plant as an integrated site is well suited for a green manufacturing park blending production of wind turbines and light-rail vehicles.

The symmetry of hydro turbines powering production of wind turbines is beautiful. It could secure generations of manufacturing jobs while helping to restore our planetary home.

Does this manufacturing use at the core of the future site preclude other complementary uses, like an expanded training/research facility? If Highland's current mixed use is any clue, it hasn't yet.

But without the hydro's clean, economical power at the core of its future use, the site becomes a limited-option brown-field - less likely to produce a manufacturing park's economic multiplier from tax-paying, solid-wage jobs.

There's much more at stake here than what winds up on that piece of property. The Ford Assembly Plant could be an inspiring model of sustainable development. It could be a launch site for a whole new manufacturing capability for Minnesota - an opportunity, for example, to meet the large, long-term demand for wind turbines that the state's new Renewable Energy Standard will require. It could include manufacturing at each point in the supply chain, all the way back to Minnesota-supplied iron ore. That is manufacturing capability no other state has yet secured.

Minnesota could become the land of 10,000 green-collar jobs.

These ideas for manufacturing aligned with a green future are natural expressions of the Ford plant's legacy of sustainability.

UAW Local 879 has been a steward of that legacy. As such, we are aligned with the Ford Site Task Force to keep good options on the table. These options range from maintaining the premier green manufacturing site to complementary mixed use. The key is to keep the Ford site linked to its source of economical and carbon-free energy.
Now is the perfect time to at least examine the role of municipal power in Sacramento or in Austin, Texas, as way to drive economic development.

Equally instructive is St Paul's own historic leadership - in the complex creation of District Heating and in recent efforts to keep manufacturing jobs at Rock-Tenn by maintaining a source of clean, economical energy.

As it has in the past, St. Paul needs to be creative - this time at the Ford site. At a minimum, it should support efforts to keep the elements of the site as an integrated whole.

It's not possible to overstate the impact of decisions about the future use of the Ford site.

And it's not possible to make the most of this opportunity with business-, labor-, or governance-as-usual.

Can we rebuild manufacturing on a green path?

Can we revitalize our economy while we get in sync with our planet?

Manufacturing jobs powered by hydro, right here in St Paul, remain an exciting part of the answer.

Lynn Hinkle, who lives in Minneapolis five minutes away from the St. Paul Ford plant, is a recently retired UAW Local 879 official. He wrote the Ford green plant proposal and is currently co-chair of the state's plug-in hybrid electric vehicle task force. His e-mail address is: lhinkle@peoplepc.com


Thursday, August 16, 2007

Minimum Wage and the AFL-CIO & Change to Win

Not long ago, I published what has probably been my most controversial blog to date; at least it generated the most response... over 700 e-mails, many phone calls, and many personal conversations... pro and con, with very sharp divisions in thinking.

Here is the link to my original blog:


This is the part which created so much controversy:

It is important that the distinction between organized labor, its present leadership, and the over all working class is made because very often the present leadership of many unions, and especially the leadership in the national labor federations— the AFL-CIO and Change To Win— do not represent their own members very effectively, let alone the entire working class.

This is evident in many struggles.

As might be expected, rank and file workers pretty much supported this while a number of elected and appointed union leaders felt I was way off base.

I got an e-mail from a friend of mine in the UAW employed at Bradford White, a manufacturer of hot water heaters in southwest Michigan stating:

Alan, you sure put into one small paragraph just what many of us have been thinking for years as the labor movement has been deteriorating, losing members, and losing influence.

A Regional Director from a large international union, had a different view:

Maki, you don't know what the hell you are talking about.

What I also found is many liberal and progressive writers and the thinkers in academia did not even understand the point I was making.

I was actually quite surprised with the response I received from a well known professor and labor historian, who wrote:

Mr. Maki you obviously know nothing about what you are writing about. Union leaders in this country do an excellent job reflecting what working people need. Most workers couldn't care less about politics or labor history. Workers don't read or understand anything in this country. They are very fortunate to have well educated labor leaders looking out for their interests.

I would note that neither the Regional Director nor the professor have taken a stand on saving the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant.

I think this demonstrates why it becomes so important for rank and file workers to begin expressing their views more aggressively... especially through writing. For some reason lots of working people are timid in stating their views in writing; and, without the views from rank and file workers the debates on many issues in our country are extremely lacking when it comes to finding solutions to problems working people are experiencing.

I often receive these wonderful letters from working people responding to what I write... most based upon their personal experiences where they work and in the communities where they live. I suggest to them they should begin publishing their views through blogging, leaflets, letters to the editors, etc. and they often respond, "I can't write well enough." Something is terribly wrong with our culture when people are made to feel their views will not be taken seriously and only the views of the adjuncts from the corporate think tanks and university professors have a corner on expressing their views through the written word.

Even progressive list serves often take the view that writing has to be to a certain standard and quality... in my opinion this is just plain wrong.

On a national level I think the issue of the minimum wage very clearly demonstrates the truth of this statement I refer to above.

Closer to home here in Minnesota, I think the issue of the future of the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant slated to close and send two-thousand jobs down the river demonstrates my point quite well; tomorrow, on this blog, I am publishing a letter I sent to a leader of UAW Local 879.

Even among progressive working class bloggers I see this problem over and over again where it is accepted without challenge that leaders like John Sweeney of the AFL-CIO speak for the entire working class; there just isn't any truth to this when it comes to many issues.

I am publishing below my response to a well known labor blogger concerning the minimum wage which I think reflects the problem.

If more workers being forced to "live" on the minimum wage and poverty wages would begin to detail their life experiences in writing I think we would see some changes very quickly.

Note: If Dick Meister responds to me I will publish his response in its entirety.

Mr. Dick Meister;

While I agree with you that the present increase in the minimum wage is no where near what it should be… your miserly nine dollar figure is also shameful; and far short of what is required.

Here is what I do not understand: We have a United States Department of Labor which pays people extremely well for the purpose of calculating what a living income actually is.

Why would progressives and the labor movement advocate anything short of the real living non-poverty wage calculated by the United States Department of Labor for any workers in this country?

In lieu of a real non-poverty wage, incomes could be subsidized through advanced social programs like child care; single-payer, universal health care; heavily subsidized quality, integrated public housing; public takeover of closing manufacturing facilities like the Ford Plant in St. Paul; heavily subsidized higher public education; lowering the threshold for welfare and food stamps, etc… in line with the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

I note that the anti-communist clause was not put back into the new AFL-CIO constitution; however, the approach of solving the problems the “reds” in the labor movement have advocated for years in solving the problems of the working class remain “taboo.”

In fact, organized labor has refused to take up these questions in any kind of principled way… choosing the “press release method of struggle and cozying up to Democratic Party politicians and their political hacks begging for a few crumbs;” rather than mobilizing rank and file working people by empowering them to organize for real change based upon a real progressive agenda which includes real solutions to very real problems they are experiencing at work and in the communities where they live.

It would be very simple to legislatively tie the minimum wage to what the United States Department of Labor calculates a real living income for workers to be.

Many working people are coming to resent well paid and well-heeled leaders of “organized” labor and “liberal” politicians who continue to advocate poverty wages for so many working people when these very same labor leaders, politicians, and political hacks don’t even stand up and fight to protect the jobs and well-being of their own members very well in so many cases.

In fact, close to two million workers are now employed across the country in approximately four hundred or so “Indian” casinos and the related hospitality industries; these workers have no rights at all under state, federal, or tribal labor laws nor the National Labor Relations Act… even as these tribes ignore a recent appeals court ruling stating the NLRA applies to these casinos… these casino managements flagrantly flaunt the ruling now that it has come down even though their attorneys represented them in Appeals court… now their attorneys advise them to ignore the ruling without even appealing it.

Here you have two million workers with no rights in the workplace which means for all practical purposes they don’t have the most basic and fundamental rights to participate in their communities or the political process--- if an employer can fire you at will without reason--- do you really think these two million workers feel comfortable speaking out on issues like the minimum wage or the poverty wages they all receive?

John Sweeney has not once addressed this problem as he claims to be an advocate for increasing the minimum wage as the rest of you sit by without a whimper of protest as Michigan’s labor backed Governor has signed another one of these “Compacts” creating one more casino and the State House has gone along with this “Compact” as the Michigan Senate prepares to follow right along in the next week or so. I would think that progressives would let out a howl of protest and indignation holding these Michigan politicians accountable to the constituency they claim to represent. Why would the Michigan House Floor leader not be able to convince his entire Democratic Party Caucus to send this “Compact” back to be renegotiated… this is common to the collective bargaining process, eh? When one side disagrees… the contract goes back for some fine tuning and upgrading. Is there a reason this can’t happen in the legislative process with a casino “Compact?” None what-so-ever except organized labor has not insisted on this happening.

In fact, Gary Garbarino tells me labor leaders “instructed” his boss, Democratic Floor Leader Steve Tobacman not to discuss with me this solution. Why? Because I am not affiliated with “legitimate” labor unions… when I asked what he meant by “legitimate” he stated “AFL-CIO or Change to Win” affiliated unions. Since when aren’t rank and file initiatives “legitimate” in this country? I made two very simple proposals:

1.) This “Compact” should include extending the protections under state and federal labor laws to casino workers all other workers in Michigan enjoy; and

2.) Casino workers should be employed in smoke free environments. What kind of labor leaders would advise politicians bought and paid for with the dues of union members to ignore this proposal which amounts to nothing more than advocating casino workers be treated with respect and common human decency… as if they were human beings? It is these very same labor leaders that now “inform” our society what the minimum wage should be based upon figures pulled from a hat.

In Michigan, organized labor makes the boast that it controls the Governor and the State House… yet, even unions like the United Auto Workers refuse to acknowledge the problem of ignoring the plight of casino workers in these Compacts.

Let me point out these two million workers are employed in the most atrocious conditions created due to second-hand smoke and managements’ complete control in the workplace.

I am appalled you and “progressive” and “left” outfits like Portside would continue to intentionally ignore the plight of these two million casino and hospitality workers right along with John Sweeney, the AFL-CIO and Change to Win and then choose to put forward a figure you pull from a hat for political expediency as to what the minimum wage should be when you have the figures scientifically calculated by the United States Department of Labor.

How can we explain the AFL-CIO, the UAW, and Change to Win not being able to force a labor backed Governor and State Legislature in a State like Michigan to go back and renegotiate this compact to include the rights of working people… thus creating an industry standard for all of these Compacts?

I would point out that the Fertitta Family and its chain of Station Casinos which will manage the proposed new Gun Lake casino in Michigan will end up making billions of dollars from this casino venture leaving the workers with empty peanut shells.

Is there anyone who is stupid enough to believe, given the way organized crime “skims” these casino operations, that casino workers shouldn’t be making at least as much as any coal miner, iron ore miner, or auto worker?

In fact, a minimum wage increase along the lines of what has been passed and the miserly increase you propose will only be enough to get working people kicked off from existing social programs having “income qualifiers,” while subjecting them to even harsher conditions of poverty while forcing many to take jobs in the casino industry working in these smoke filled casinos for poverty wages without any rights or a voice at work.

I would encourage you to check out my blog for further information on this issue.

Alan L. Maki
Director of Organizing,
Midwest Casino Workers Organizing Council

58891 County Road 13
Warroad, Minnesota 56763

Phone: 218-386-2432
Cell phone: 651-587-5541

E-mail: amaki000@centurytel.net

Check out my blog:

Thoughts From Podunk


Friday, August 10, 2007

Letter to United Auto Workers Union (UAW) concerning the rights of casino workers and the Gun Lake Tribe

-----Original Message-----

From: Alan Maki [mailto:amaki000@centurytel.net]

Sent: Friday, August 10, 2007 11:01 AM

To: DLONG@uaw.net; Nadine Nosal; gdubovich@usw.org; lgerard@usw.org; senrichardville@senate.michigan.gov

Cc: Gary Garbarino; editor@indiancountry.com; editor@allegannews.com; Michael Johnston; stevetobocman@house.mi.gov; colemanayoungii@house.mi.gov

Subject: Gun Lake Casino "Compact;" the struggle for workers' rights moves to the Michigan Senate

Brother Dick Long, UAW-CAP;

Could you please tell me if the votes made by members of the Michigan House on
August 8, 2007 concerning the Gun Lake Tribes casino "Compact"---HR 158 and HCR 39 will be included in compiling voting records for rating how Michigan Legislators have voted on labor issues?

As I am sure you have noted, the majority of Michigan House Democrats shamefully voted for HR 158 and HCR 39 in spite of the fact that casino workers will have no rights under state or federal labor laws under the terms negotiated by labor’s Democratic Governor with the Gun Lake Tribe.

I am sure you have taken note Democratic Representative Sak and Floor Leader Steve Tobacman both voted “no” on HR 158 and HCR 39; however, what is of grave concern to me, as I am sure it is to you, these leaders of the Democratic Party Caucus were unable to sway most of their Democratic colleagues to vote with them for some strange reason which apparently was a deal worked out behind closed doors during a hastily called caucus meeting prior to the vote. This was a dirty deal for all working people in the shameful manner democracy and open government played second fiddle with workers’ rights not even being allowed on stage.

I would encourage the United Auto Workers Union’s Community Action Program to consider these “Yes” votes as anti-labor votes; and, inform your membership of these anti-labor votes of the members of the Michigan Democratic Party Legislative Caucus.

Hopefully the United Auto Workers Union will be able to exert greater pressure on Senate Democrats in forcing the Senate Democratic Caucus to send this “Compact” back to Governor Jennifer Granholm for her to renegotiate this “Compact” with the Gun Lake Tribe to include:

1. A workplace environment free of second hand smoke;

2. Casino workers to be protected by the same state and federal laws, together with the National Labor Relation Act protecting the right to organize, which protect all other workers--- including auto workers.

In the mean time, I would request that you contact your locals and members and inform them to stay out of the Odawa Casino in Petoskey, Michigan and the Island Casino near Escanaba, Michigan where we are conducting organizing campaigns.

I am sure you are aware of the considerable problems caused by leaders of your union who insisted they had the right to sit and pull slot machine levers all night long at the Odawa/Victories Casino in Petoskey. Hopefully there will be no further repeats of this sad episode. I informed your members that the next time they are caught in this casino their photographs will be taken and placed on the internet for all to see. A leading member of the UAW Retirees was also involved.

I would point out that the UAW has made no attempt, or effort, to organize the Indian owned/operated casinos in Michigan; nor been a voice in defense of the rights of these casino workers. I did put a group of casino workers in touch with the UAW in New York State who were anxious to organize, but I understand the UAW’s effort there is failing miserably.

I was happy to see that your Michigan Legislative Lobbyist, Nadine Nosal, put in a card in opposition to this “Compact” during the hearing before the Michigan Legislature's Regulatory Reform Committee. I trust casino workers can count on your union and the UAW-CAP for continued opposition to this “Compact” as written without the protection of the rights of casino workers as noted above.

I also trust that you will do everything possible to use the UAW’s influence in the Michigan AFL-CIO to get this labor federation on board with us in opposing this “Compact” as written as it is brought before the Michigan Senate.

While the UAW has been hesitant to act in defense of the rights of casino workers, and has not challenged the right of casino workers to work in smoke free environments in the non-Indian casinos, we hope our initiative now underway in the Michigan Legislature will encourage your union to take a second look at this problem of second-hand smoke in the workplace.

You and the present UAW leadership have a track record of talking tough; and then at the time of decision collapsing at the feet of management and politicians like the I-35-W Bridge which used to span the Mighty Mississippi River in Minneapolis; hopefully, our organizing efforts in Michigan and other states will help you over-come this problem presently hobbling your union in negotiations with the “Big Three” and in your organizing drives.

In the class struggle spirit of Phil Raymond, Nadia Barken, Wyndham Mortimer, Coleman Young, Sr., and Brother Bill McKie…

Warmest regards.

Yours in the struggle,

Alan L. Maki
Director of Organizing,
Midwest Casino Workers Organizing Council

58891 County Road 13
Warroad, Minnesota 56763
Phone: 218-386-2432
Cell phone: 651-587-5541
E-mail: amaki000@centurytel.net

Cc: John D. Cherry, Lt. Governor
Mark Shauer, Minority (Democrat) Floor Leader
Tupac Hunter
Buzz Thomas
Glenn Anderson
Gilda Jacobs
John Gleason
Ray Basham

Check out my blog:

Thoughts From Podunk