Texas Longhorns with newborn calf in Bluebonnets

Texas Longhorns with newborn calf in Bluebonnets

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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...

Sunday, February 9, 2014

How movements can be initiated.

Working people can initiate movements and have greater say in existing movements.

Here is what we often do:

1. Write a Letter to the Editor;

2. Send the Letter to the Editor to politicians;

3. Turn the Letter to the Editor into Precinct Caucus resolutions, resolutions for different organizations;

4. Turn the Letter to the Editor into a petition or statement for others to sign;

5. Turn the Letter to the Editor (often two or three letters on the same topic but from slightly different perspectives) into leaflets;

6. Use all the above for tabling with banners;

7. Use the Letters to the Editor as a call to meetings, pickets and demonstrations.

8. Use the Letter to the Editor as an outline for talks, speeches, forums and debates.

9. Use the Letter to the Editor as a platform to run for public office.

10. Always conscious of trying to build a movement.

The thing is to be persistent and never give up until you get what you are after or unless you lose... if you lose, then try to merge your work with another ongoing struggle so all is not lost.

"Kitchen table" issues require working people coming together around the kitchen table creating organizations which become part of larger movements. Try to fill all four chairs around the kitchen table.

Obviously there are fairly well organized movements for peace, a living wage, health care reform we can all plug into.

Other issues are out there that movements need to be built around from the ground up.

I guess we have to think in terms of every person a "citizen lobbyist" but it sure would help if we had a massive "People's Lobby" we could all plug into that was serving notice on politicians that we intend to build a political party that would be part of our movements challenging Wall Street for political and economic power so we could finally get the kind of country we can all be proud to live in.

In my opinion, and what I have found, is that when you are willing to write down your views and sign your name for the public to consider, you immediately gain credibility.

Try writing a Letter to the Editor and experiment with the above suggestions.

Example of a Letter to the Editor that has helped to influence a movement and served as a catalyst to spark a movement:

Where is the real minimum wage?

Published 9:00am Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Albert Lea Tribune


Holiday shoppers and voters should beware of the bait and switch.

Bait and switch is an illegal advertising gimmick in the retail world; but, in politics bait and switch has become the way of life, the new normal.

For example: Obama campaigned for the Democratic Party’s nomination telling everyone, everywhere he went, he was for a single-payer universal health care system like they have in Canada; this was the bait.

Once elected, Obama pulled a switch and delivered Obamacare/Romneycare or as it should be known, the Health Insurance and Pharmaceutical Industry Bailout and Profit Maximization Act of 2010.

Another example: Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party Gov. Mark Dayton campaigned for office saying he would raise the minimum wage to a real living wage — this was the bait. Once elected, Dayton, a multibillionaire, is now pushing a miserly increase in the minimum wage which would keep the minimum wage a poverty wage — the switch.

Buyer (voter) beware of bait and switch.

The Minnesota DFL Party has a super-majority. Republicans have no say about anything; all they can do is cry.

We should at least be able to get a real living minimum wage out of these Democrats corresponding to actual cost-of-living factors as tracked and monitored by the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics — the minimum wage should also be indexed to inflation with periodic increases to improve the living standards of working people.

Working people are entitled to this in return for their votes, especially from a political party which makes the claim that it is for labor.

If there are any obstacles the Democrats are encountering that would prevent them from implementing a real living — non-poverty — minimum wage, I would like to hear what the impediment is.

Alan L. Maki
director of organizing
Midwest Casino Workers Organizing Council

The above Letter to the Editor led to this Open Letter to the Governor of Minnesota being drafted with the participation and agreement by many people. It is now being circulated:
January 2014
An Open Letter . . .
TO:  Governor Mark Dayton and the Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party Legislative Caucus.
FROM:  Your Constituents

Enough!  We are not waiting any longer!
As DFL candidates, you campaigned on a promise to enact legislation that provides low-wage workers a real, living wage  not just a “minimum” wage.
Your campaign language explicitly called for “workers being entitled to living wages!”  It promised a Living Wage Act, but no progress was made in your first super-majority session.

All it would take, you said, was for Minnesotans to give the DFL a super-majority. Well, we voters delivered it to you!  You have it! But now, instead of advancing Living Wage legislation, the DFL is floating another “minimum wage” bill that will just perpetuate poverty wages for many Minnesota workers!

For years, the DFL leadership has claimed Republicans were the lone obstacle to establishing a Living Wage in our state. That obstacle has been removed. You are now in the driver’s seat!
We, the workers of Minnesota, gave you the legislative votes to enact the Living Wage legislation you promised us.
We expect you now to do so.  You could call it “The Minnesota Living Wage Act of 2014.”

Most importantly, we need to begin with a realistic dollar amount. Living Wages need to be calculated based on realistic levels of cost-of-living. U.S. Census data suggests at least $15 per hour; while, based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), hourly wages of $22 and $26 at 40 hrs/week are needed to cover basic necessities. When making decisions on determining basic needs for a dignified life, the testimony from low-income Minnesotans should also be taken into consideration.

 A Living Wage must also be subject to regular cost-of-living adjustments. The Consumer Price Index is our best indicator, and it should be used to adjust a new Minnesota Living Wage level quarterly or at least semi-annually.

If you should fail to enact such legislation, we will assume that you were just baiting us with nice-sounding campaign rhetoric, and that you are pulling a switch on us by simply advancing more employer-friendly “minimum wage” legislation, that does nothing to alleviate the hardships of Minnesota’s working poor.
Perhaps you think any increase is better than nothing.  We don’t!

Minnesota has long been considered a progressive bellwether.  Do something significant now for her working men and women. It is what everybody morally deserves  —  the prospect of a dignified life.

Be courageous. Lead our state — and our nation — in securing the right of every worker to earn a decent living. 

It can begin with the Minnesota Living Wage Act of 2014.

You can make it happen!


Your fellow Minnesotans 
(as the undersigned, with our signatures attached herein)

My thoughts on the struggle against sulfide mining.

My thoughts on the fight against this hideous sulfide mining they want to bring to Minnesota:

When former DNR Commissioner under Pawlenty, Gene Merriam, asked to meet with me in Waskish up in the Big Bog about the concerns people had with peat mining that is taking place in the Pine Island State Forest; I showed him pictures I took of a family of four Moose and asked him: What will become of these moose, this is their home?"

Merriam responded, "You are a good photographer. The moose will just have to find a new home."

I then showed him pictures of Timber Wolf tracks I took right in the middle of the land being cleared asking him, "And what about the Timber Wolves?"

Again, his response was, "The wolves will just have to find new homes."

If people want to see and hear how Congressman James Oberstar responded to my questions about the peat mining in the Big Bog which he was a main party to initiating they should request to see the video made by the Humphrey Center where the Freeman Forum sponsored Oberstar as the main speaker and gave him an award for being a good steward of our waters; the theme was, "Water, Water Everywhere."

The video is now "stored away." Made unusable by the University because of the filthy and foul language Oberstar hurled at me simply for asking these kinds of questions of him.

Sitting in the audience were many "dignitaries"--- including Gene Merriam who suggested, "This is not the time or place for such questions."

I would note, that to his credit, after I asked Merriam how he could call the Big Bog "one of Minnesota's crown jewels" and then sign the permit for a foreign multi-national conglomerate to mine peat and drain the bog, our largest freshwater aquifer--- Merriam responded, "I never signed the permit or authorized this peat mining; you are a liar for saying I did this." He made this statement in front of about 150 people.

When I showed him the permit with his signature on it, he responded: "That is my name but not my signature."

He then said, "This concludes our conversation. I will look into this and get back to you within two weeks."

Merriam never got back to me; but, he did resign.

At the "Water, Water Everywhere" forum, Merriam insisted I stop saying he was responsible for the peat mining; asking me, "What more do you want from me, I resigned?"

I told Merriam he had had a responsibility to revoke the permit after he found out that his signature was forged on the permit. He turned around and walked away.

Merriam was a Democratic state legislator at the time Pawlenty appointed him.

It is all the good ol' boys club; Democrat, Republican; it makes no difference.

The Minnesota DNR is a corporate mouthpiece.

It is darn near impossible to find any supporters of this hideous peat mining now going on in the Big Bog. But it goes on anyways over massive opposition.

Merriam summoned me to meet with him in Waskish in front of a crowd of mostly Republicans thinking my opposition to the peat mining would be attacked.

What he found was not one single supporter of the peat mining.

It is going to take one heck of a fight to stop this hideous sulfide mining and playing "Minnesota nice" with these mining companies, the Chamber of Commerce and the politicians isn't going to stop sulfide mining.

These big-business interests don't care about people--- do you think they are going to care about the moose?

The mining companies have swindled thousands of miners out of the pensions they are entitled to and not one single politician has stepped forward to help stop this swindle--- mine after mine, LTV, now National Steel.

One would think these politicians would at least insist these mining companies honor the pensions of workers before they would approve another mining permit of any kind--- but people, the environment, the moose, the Timber Wolves mean nothing to these politicians and the corporations they represent; it's all about profits.

Profits derived from exploiting labor to rape the land; profits shared with the politicians willingly accepting their bribes.

We need to consider what kind of fight and struggle it takes to win anything as we go up against these mining companies and the crooked and corrupt politicians and DNR officials they bribe.

What kind of fight did it take to force these mining companies to recognize the union?

It took a war in the north country to win union recognition.

If it took a war in the woods to win union recognition from these companies, think about what kind of struggle it will take to stop this sulfide mining.

Huge profits are at stake.

In Michigan and Wisconsin the mining companies have hired a bunch of mercenary thugs to defend their interests... just like the mining companies have always brought in these thugs to beat up and beat down workers fighting for their rights and their livelihoods.

In my opinion, this struggle against sulfide mining is more likely to be won by joining with workers who have been swindled out of their pensions by the mining companies and insist that not one more permit to mine is issued until this pension fund swindle has been resolved to the level of all pensioned ever agreed to in the collective bargaining process have been honored and lived up to.

Moose and Timber Wolves are victims that can not fight back; rank-and-file miners and their families know how to fight like hell for their rights, their livelihoods and a safe and healthy working environment at work and in their communities.

A few so-called "environmentalists" have sown division between working people who should be natural allies in this struggle.

At the very center of this struggle to put an end to sulfide mining is the class struggle. And, in my opinion, it is on this basis that this struggle should be waged.

Jobs, like pensions, are a very important issue on the Iron Range which has become the Appalachia of the north.

More jobs could be created in the existing mining industry than what will ever be created by sulfide mining.

The work week in the taconite industry could be reduced with workers receiving forty-hours pay; the retirement age could be reduced--- provided the mining companies are forced to honor pensions; vacations could be extended.

Existing jobs at the casinos, Wal-mart, Target, McDonald's, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Menard's, etc. could be turned into real living wage jobs--- by either raising the Minimum Wage to a real living wage or union contracts. Workers with benefits like real vacations will create more jobs in all of these workplaces.

There is no reason why every job that needs to be done should not be a "good job."

Again, it is rank-and-file union members who can push these campaigns forward for a real living Minimum Wage and to organize--- are the environmentalists opposing this sulfide mining willing to pitch in and do their part in return for miners and all workers and their families joining this struggle?

If this struggle against sulfide mining is going to be won everyone concerned is going to have to re-think and adjust to a position of what is the basis of greatest possible unity.

There is no way this struggle will be won with "environmentalists" pitted against miners and jobs.

Look around you; what success have these environmental organizations like the Minnesota Environmental Partnership, Sierra, Audubon, Izaak Walton League had? Their only "success" has been in fundraising to pay their staffs.

It is time to re-think what it is going to take to stop this sulfide mining as part of this struggle.

I also think it does no good to antagonize the Iron Range DFL delegation in the State Legislature--- probably the only real friends working people have down there in the Cities... I believe most are seriously concerned about jobs and are probably not being bribed by the mining companies... they should be engaged and pushed to confront the realities of what it will take to create more jobs in the the existing taconite industry and the need for a real living Minimum Wage. They should be pushed to become part of the struggle to honor the pensions or no more expansion of mining in Minnesota.

State Senator David Tomassoni has been one of a very few Minnesota legislators with the courage to stand up for the unemployed, he brought forward legislation for a "People's Bailout," he has stood with working people losing their homes to foreclosure, he has been in the forefront of Citizens United... it seems to me he, and his constituents--- hard rock miners--- have more to gain by standing up for what is right on this sulfide mining issue. But this won't happen until everyone is willing to sit down and discuss all of this.

Tom Rukavina has fought like no other politician in modern Minnesota history for the rights and livelihoods of working class Minnesotans. Does that mean he should be cut slack on this sulfide mining issue? No; but he should be extended the courtesy of being a full participant in this dialog and discussion about how to create jobs, protect and defend pensions in the context of protecting and defending the environment.

Some kind of public roundtable discussion needs to be organized on the Iron Range to discuss all of this with all parties and opinions from a working class perspective involved.

I have disagreed with Tomassoni and Rukavina on several issues but calling them names like the "Iron Range mafia" isn't going to do any good.

It is the same corporate interests promoting this hideous sulfide mining who are behind the pension fund swindles, preventing every job from being a "good job" and who oppose a real living Minimum Wage.

This issue will not be resolved in these Environmental Impact Statement hearings now being manipulated by the DNR for the sake of big-business employed lobbyists who just love to see this kind of animosity from which their business--- and profits--- thrive; lots and lots of money for them to make as long as this continues to play out in such a way that divides working people.

I am sure the well-heeled crowd from the foundation-funded environmental outfits will never understand the class basis for this kind of struggle... but others should.

After all, these foundation-funded outfits receive a lot of their funding from whom?

The great "philanthropists" who are the robber barons of the mining and forestry industries:

The Rockefeller Brothers Foundation.

The Ford Foundation.

The Blandin Foundation.

The Northwest Foundation.

And... surprise, surprise; from our billionaire Governor's personal foundation.

From Earth Day 2014 to May Day 2014... ten days of mass mobilizations and actions; but, will this connection be made?

Check out this article I wrote published by Canadian Dimension Magazine on their web site:

Climate change and the military-industrial complex

Alan Maki | January 26th 2014 | 2

This letter was written in reply to our recently published interview with Noam Chomsky about climate change.
You can read the original Chomsky interview  
The one important aspect of climate change the Left keeps missing is the fact that Wall Street’s very lucrative military-industrial complex leaves the largest carbon footprint of any industry.
So, why have the peace and environmental movements, along with most of the Left, failed to make this important connection?
I’m surprised neither Chomsky nor Canadian Dimension brought this important connection forward in this interview.
How much of what is produced from the Tar Sands will be consumed by the Military-Industrial Complex?
One aircraft carrier of the Nimitz class carries three million gallons of aircraft fuel. Fuel for just 80 aircraft. The U.S. typically deploys six of these aircraft carriers during manoeuvres, conflicts and wars. This alone is one heck of a carbon footprint and we still have to figure out what kind of carbon footprint is created manufacturing these aircraft carriers and planes.
And this example is just the tip of the melting iceberg.
Consider all the mining and manufacturing which goes into producing for militarism and wars – what kind of carbon footprint is created in preparation for wars, by wars and rebuilding in the aftermath of wars?
There is a point to be made about global warming and militarism and wars which leads me to conclude that the most effective way to fight global warming and climate change is to fight for peace by “beating swords into plowshares.”
For some reason all these foundation-funded peace organizations and environmental organizations don’t want to acknowledge that the Military-Industrial Complex bears primary responsibility for global warming and climate change. Perhaps because the “great philanthropists” funding the foundations profit so handsomely from militarism and wars?
If changing out light bulbs contributes to ending global warming and climate change, can you imagine the contribution peace would make towards this effort?
It seems our environmental and peace movements could use what the great labour leader and working class revolutionary, William Z. Foster, advised “a good strong dose of anti-imperialist education,” connecting all the dots.
Alan Maki is the Director of Organizing for the Midwest Casino Workers Organizing Council and also one of the founders of Minnesotans for Peace and Social Justice.


  • We are so indoctrinated in “support our troops ” and the culture of military domination that we don’t even discuss peace and total nuclear disarmament with China and others.
    It seems that “jobs” and the wealth of our industry and industrialist/stockholder class is more important than survival of the species.
    #1. Posted by Herbert A. Davis in davisherb@wisper-wireless.com on January 27th 2014 at 8:58am

  • Thanks as always, Alan, for telling the truth. The graphic of the American soldier watching oil wells burn pretty much sums up what’s leading America to ruin. Here’s hoping Canadians will wake up to the damage being done in the Alberta oil patch and by the lethal material it is producing, and rise up against the corporate behemoths which are systematically buying that great nation.
    #2. Posted by Anthony Noel in North Carolina, United States on January 28th 2014 at 10:47am