Bob Haynes will leave labor worse than he found it

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Nobody should shed any tears for Bobby Haynes, the longtime president of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, when he rides off this fall into the kind of gilded retirement he generally decries for private-sector CEOs – unless, of course, it is an $11-million package for the former CEO of a nonprofit health corporation on whose board Haynes is paid a cool $72,000 to sit.

Nor should they give him any thanks.

Haynes, who announced his retirement this week, is leaving labor worse than he found it. And not because public employee unions look to be “losing” a battle on Beacon Hill over health care benefits.

It is because Haynes, described by the Boston Globe as a “tough-talking former iron worker,” is more of an intemperate trash talker who has fit the stereotype of union leaders as thugs.

Haynes claimed this week that he had “spent my entire career fighting for working people.” Let’s clarify – that would be only working people who belong to unions.

When the House finally took a vote this past April that represented the interests of all taxpayers, Haynes threw a tantrum, declaring that since the unions had bought the large majority of legislators he therefore expected them to vote as he wanted.

The House had voted to give municipalities the authority to set health care benefits without collective bargaining. So Haynes declared:

These are the same Democrats that all these labor unions elected. The same Democrats who we contributed to in their campaigns. The same Democrats who tell us over and over again that they’re with us, that they believe in collective bargaining, that they believe in unions … It’s a done deal for our relationship with the people inside that chamber.

Sadly, Gov. Devil Patrick and Senate leaders have leaned his way instead of giving him the smackdown he deserved, proposing a watered-down version of the House bill. But, since his bullying didn’t get him everything he wanted, Haynes is now going to take his many marbles and go home – telling the world he is a victim. He told the Boston Herald, “The criticism of me is fine, it’s just not good for the labor movement.”

No, Bob. It’s you who is not good for the labor movement. You had a chance at least to pretend that you and your followers have some respect and sympathy for those who have to pay ever-higher bills for public services. You had the chance to acknowledge that you and your members have largely been insulated from the punishing recession, and that taking the same deal that state workers get for health care did not amount to the public beating up on labor but just a small measure of shared sacrifice.

You had a chance to demonstrate with actions instead of words that you really did want to be part of the solution.

But no. Anything that gives average taxpayers even a small break is a grievous insult to unions. Now, Haynes is described as tired and worn out, needing some time to smell the roses.

So, he is stepping down. He is just 61, by the way. Work until 65? Are you kidding? That’s for the little people.