Robert Haynes, one of the most influential and controversial figures in the state's labor movement, is stepping down as President of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, the Phoenix has learned. Although the exact timing of his departure is not immediately clear, he is up for re-election this October and is informing board members that he will not seek re-election at that time.
Haynes, of Medford, has led the federation of unions since 1998, representing close to 400,000 members.
A major political figure, Haynes has recently made headlines fighting against proposed legislation aimed at lowering municipal health-care costs. The progress of that bill could be seen as evidence that his influence is waning on Beacon Hill -- particularly coming after the failure last year of gaming legislation, one of labor's top priorities.
Haynes has also come under scrutiny for his role on the board of Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Massachusetts. Blue Cross would likely lose business under the proposed health-care reforms, which would allow towns to switch from private insurers to the state's Group Insurance Commission.
However, Haynes has been a powerful force in state politics for years, with strong relationships and proven organizational ability. His departure -- and the choice of successor -- comes at a critical moment for labor and will be closely watched by the state's political establishment.