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...

Friday, June 29, 2007

Cancer on the Iron Range and in Minnesota Casinos

Many resolutions such as the one I have posted below have come from the Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party.

There is a blatant hypocrisy to these resolutions in that Minnesota's more than 20,000 (and growing) casino workers were not mentioned in any of these resolutions; nor covered by the new "Freedom to Breathe" legislation.

This has not been by accident. Minnesota DFL Chair Brian Melendez [pictured below], the handpicked Summit Hill club successor to "Cadillac Mike," has repeatedly referred to the casino industry as, "Our Native American friends in the casino business."

It is no coincidence that Melendez has demonstrated the same hypocrisy towards Iron Range miners who have been suffering work and environmental related cancers for many years as the Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party has been fully aware that the Iron Range was a very unique and significant "cancer cluster" in the United States. There was no need for Melendez and the Minnesota DFL to take note of this only as a means of "making political hay" at the expense of a well-known anti-labor, anti-people governor. Melendez, as are all Minnesota legislators including Iron Range legislators, have been fully aware of the problem with these cancers. James Oberstar has concealed, and kept his mouth shut about this issue for well over 30 years--- from the time he worked for that pathetic corrupt politician Blatnik.

The question is begging to be asked: Why did Melendez wait until now to utter a word about a problem he has known about? The answer is obvious; for Melendez politics is a mere game. For working people politics is about life, and in this case, death.

In the very same manner that Melendez has continued a more than fifty year Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party "tradition" of evading this "cancer cluster" on the Iron Range, he--- and the MN DFL--- continue to ignore the plight of casino workers when it comes to the effects of second hand-smoke.

In fact, in a personal conversation I had with unsuccessful Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party United States Senate candidate, Ford Bell, who asked me to endorse him for his U.S. Senate bid, Ford Bell acknowledged that casino workers were the largest group of workers being hurt by second-hand smoke. Ford Bell should know; he is the past President and Chief Executive Officer of one of the leading organizations in the world on the effects of second-hand smoke in the working environment--- his own biography states: From 1995 to 2005, he served as President and CEO of the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation, a prominent research organization and one of the largest providers of community heart health education in the United States. At least Ford Bell did have the political and moral courage to vigorously make single-payer, universal health care one of two primary platforms of his campaign; ending the dirty war in Iraq being the other.

Here again, Brian Melendez and this arrogant leadership at the helm of the Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party, while making the pretense of remaining impartial, even manipulated and maneuvered to sink Ford Bell's campaign for United States Senate.

During the 7th Congressional District Convention, Melendez and his little clique went so far as to try to prevent Ford Bell's campaign workers from distributing Bell's campaign material... it was only after my very vigorous and vocal intervention that Bell's campaign workers were allowed to distribute his material as all other candidates were afforded the opportunity. Any one can pick up the phone and call Ford Bell to verify this... or the Seventh District Chair who refused to intervene on Bell's behalf.

WE are talking about very basic and elemental issues of democracy being attacked by Chair Melendez and his wrecking crew of Susan Rego and Andrew O'Leary.

Ford Bell and I had a very cordial discussion about why I would not endorse him; although I did continue to state throughout the campaign that he was obviously a better candidate for the MN DFL to put forward than Amy "Republican Lite" Klobuchar who has never taken anything but an opportunist stand on any issue... once in awhile she happens to take a correct position, but the action is one of political expediency rather than based upon any kind of moral or political courage.

Ford Bell refused to take up the issue of the right of casino workers to be free from second-hand smoke as a condition I placed upon him for my endorsement--- he lost the nomination for the United States Senate to Amy "Republican Lite" Klobuchar whose big campaign boast was that her grandfather was "a miner on the Iron Range."

In fact, Amy "Republican Lite" Klobuchar's grandfather was a straw boss for the mining company and from this position "fingered" many miners who were involved in the struggle to unionize the mines who upon being fingered lost their jobs along with their health in later life; but, this isn't the point, here; even though this gives us an idea of her moral and political integrity. The point is, Amy "Republican Lite" Klobuchar used her association as coming from a mining family, but refused to refer to the "cancer cluster" on the Iron Range in her campaign--- and once elected, in the very same manner she has refused, like the rest of the Minnesota DFL [with the exception of the Roseau County DFL]to respond to the health related problems of casino workers to second-hand smoke.

In fact, the DFL has very hypocritically refused to mention the "cancer cluster" on the Iron Range while simultaneously ignoring a similar health related plight of casino workers.

In fact, Minnestota Farmer-Labor Party organizer and Communist Party member--- United States Congressman John Bernard--- requested the United States Congress investigate this "cancer cluster" in 1936 immediately after his election to the United States House of Representatives. He was backed up in this request by his long-time friend and socialist Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party Governor, Elmer Benson. As far back as 1928, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Communist Party organizer who helped to spearhead the union organizing efforts of the Red Finns which successfully organized the mines on the Iron Range was referring to "work related hazards... including deadly cancers" among "iron ore miners on Minnesota's Iron Range" as she criss crossed the United States making our nation's working class aware of the struggles of iron ore miners for justice and human dignity; Flynn made impassioned pleas for solidarity with iron ore miners on the Mesabi Iron Range.

We need to ask "why" every single thing affecting the lives of working people--- their employment, their communities, and now even their health--- is viewed by the DFL Legislative Caucus and the Brian Melendez leadership as part of a political game; worthy of mere press releases aimed at embarrassing an anti-labor Republican Governor who needs no help in this respect?

Mr. Melendez has led the fight AGAINST single-payer, universal health care and has actively "strategized" in developing "tactics" aimed at confusing Minnesotans as to what single-payer, universal health care really is all about; again, as part of his political games and cruel shenanigans.

We have all seen and heard the responses from DFL legislators concerning Pawlenty with-holding information on this "cancer cluster" which further documents a problem we have all known has existed for years. What did we see and hear? A justifiable attack on Pawlenty and this horrendously anti-labor Republican administration.

However, what was lacking was any mention of the need for single-payer, universal health care in helping these miners and their families suffering from these cancers which are work and environmentally related.

The Minnesota DFL has consistently ignored the warnings from former United States District Court Judge Miles Lord of the cancer related problems associated with iron ore mining and the taconite industry... just as the Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party has continued to ignore the plight of casino workers and second-hand smoke. Just as this "cancer cluster" signifies a pattern, so too does the silence of the Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party.

Perhaps if these political opportunists had family members suffering from the work-place and environmental related cancers in the mining communities and in the casinos we would be hearing a little different story on the nightly news.

This resolution below intentionally excludes casino workers. The writer of this resolution was fully aware that casino workers would not be included in the "Freedom to Breathe" legislation, yet, in the most arrogantly racist and anti-labor manner, without any regard to the health hazards particularly to young working women of child-bearing age, went right ahead and used the term: "all workers in Minnesota."

Again, no mention of "single-payer, universal health care" in this resolution even though the writer of this resolution was fully aware that Minnesota workers suffering the health consequences of second-hand smoke are having their homes taken away from them to cover health related expenses.

Again, the resolution refers to "all workplaces in Minnesota" need to be smoke-free, fully aware that this legislation would not apply to casino workers.

Here is the resolution:

Freedom To Breath - Smoke Free Minnesota Resolution
Submitted by mmcintee on Mon, 03/06/2006 - 6:40pm. Resolutions

WHEREAS, secondhand smoke kills 38,000 Americans every year from cardiovascular disease and lung cancer; and

WHEREAS, worksites and public places are locations where both members of the community and employees of those establishments are exposed to secondhand smoke; and

WHEREAS, most but not all workers in Minnesota are protected from secondhand smoke through smoke-free workplace policies; and

WHEREAS, restaurant and particularly bar workers are most exposed, most vulnerable and least protected from secondhand smoke in the workplace; and

WHEREAS, the DFL's Ongoing Platform supports reasonable regulations that ensure safety and the rights of all workers; and

WHEREAS, employees should not be forced to risk their health through exposure to dangerous and deadly toxins in their workplace; and

WHEREAS, the DFL's Ongoing Platform supports living and working conditions free from significant exposure to poisons; and

WHEREAS, the most effective way to protect employee and public health from the hazards of secondhand smoke is to prohibit the causes of secondhand smoke by creating smoke-free environments,

BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED that the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party supports a comprehensive statewide smoke-free law ensuring that all workplaces, including bars and restaurants, become smoke-free and include this support as an Action Agenda Item in the DFL's ongoing platform.

I wrote a response to this arrogant, anti-labor, racist hypocrisy of the Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party which was published in the TimberJay newspaper, an Iron Range newspaper. I publish it below:

Letter to the editor published in Timberjay Newspaper

Link: http://timberjay.com/current.php?article=3361

Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Volume 18, Issue 22

Legislators should show concern for casino workers

Over twenty thousand Minnesotans go to work in smoke-filled casinos everyday. State legislators don’t care about casino workers or casino patrons who are the same people they say they are protecting from second-hand smoke everyplace else with the new “Freedom to Breath” legislation.

If state legislators would show some concern for these 20,000 casino workers employed in an industry making money hand over fist, which subjects casino workers not only to the health hazards of second-hand smoke, but leaves them completely at the mercy of managements that have no respect for working people and their right to be employed in a healthy and safe workplace to begin with, Reps. David Dill and Tom Rukavina would not have to be complaining of an “uneven playing field.”

People sit in bars by choice; people work in these casinos because they need a job. There is a big difference; both Dill and Rukavina should be able to understand this. Workers have a right to expect that state legislators will not throw them into situations where they have no rights under state or federal labor laws and now without the protection of “Freedom To Breath” legislation, something state legislators have done with casino workers.

Who has allowed such an “uneven playing field” to develop in the first place? These legislators should look in the mirror.

It is up to Dill and Rukavina to stop crying about this smoking ban and the “uneven playing field” they created in the first place and continue to tolerate... their concern should be for the health of all workers, including casino workers, and Dill and Rukavina should take the appropriate measures to “level the playing field” by making sure all workers, including casino workers, have the right to be employed in safe and healthy work environments protected by the same state and federal labor laws that protect all other workers.

I have a great deal of respect for Rep. Rukavina and support just about everything he does as a state Legislator, but on this issue he is all wrong. Rep. Rukavina is concerned about a few bar owners when he should be concerned about the people working in these bars for eight, ten, and twelve hours who breathe in this second-hand smoke.

I am quite sure I speak for all of organized labor on this; I know I speak for most working people who want to be employed in a healthy and safe working environment.

Mr. Maki is Director of Organizing- Red Lake Casino, Hotel, and Restaurant Employees’ Union Organizing Committee and serves on the DFL State Central Committee.

Whether we are speaking of the "cancer cluster" on the Iron Range or more than 20,000 Minnesotans working in casinos... time, and time again, we are seeing demonstrated the same uncaring and insensitive attitude towards working people by the DFL Legislative Caucus and the present opportunist leadership of the party hacks who have a strangle-hold on the DFL Party organization and apparatus.

Time, and time again, we see how these cowardly political hacks resort to the same vicious smear campaigns trying to silence their critics. I am not their first target, I will not be their last... unless those who respect working people and grassroots activists put an end to this sad, sad state of affairs in the MN DFL where the very lives of working people are being used to play political games rather than solving the problems at hand people will begin to look for other political alternatives in solving their problems; I for one, think it would be good if an alternative to the do-nothing politics of the MN DFL developed... the sooner the better; this would be healthier for democracy; this would be healthier for our state and Minnesota's working people... yes, there is a pun intended.