National Welfare Rights Union convention draws up plans to fight anti-poor budget cuts

By Allen Harris, in People's Tribune (Online Edition),
Vol. 22, no. 29, 18 September, 1995

The need to resist "the continuous stream of budget cuts and attacks on children" by federal and state governments brought together 400 delegates to the 1995 National Welfare Rights Convention at the Hotel Sofitel in Houston last August 18-20.

The convention was "very exciting, very provocative and extremely successful," said Maureen Taylor, state chairperson of the Michigan chapter of the NWRU.

Participants came from 27 states as well as from Canada and included a broad range of people of all colors and nationalities -- from students to homeless people, from AFDC recipients and the handicapped to elected officials and clergy.

They heard a welcoming address by Houston mayor Kathy Whitmire and speeches from civil rights lawyer Barbara Arnwine, from National Organization for Women president Patricia Ireland and from NWRU chair Marian Kramer. Arnwine, Ireland and Kramer were among the U.S. participants in the United Nations women's conference in Beijing.

The convention re-elected Kramer as its chair and elected veteran fighter Cheri Honkala of Philadelphia as NWRU co-chair.

"We were able to pull together a unified point of view on the cuts taking place across the country and come up with a plan and strategy on how to react over the next three months, six months and year," said Taylor.

The participants described how the attacks took different forms in each region, such as attacks on immigrants in California or the all-out attacks in the South, where food programs such as breakfast and lunch programs for children and Meals on Wheels for the elderly face total elimination, she said.

"One of the things we decided to do was to alert the federal government, through Hillary Clinton and her husband, that the president has to veto any family cap legislation," said Taylor.

Family caps are genocidal measures being pushed by the ruling class. They cut off additional aid to families which exceed a certain number of children.

The convention decided to launch a drive to send thousands of postcards from around the country to deliver that message to the White House, Taylor said.

Another strategy included asking local legal service organizations to mount a campaign of lawsuits "to declare the illegality of starving children," she said.

A third strategy was to ask members to return home and prepare for a winter offensive of street activities -- picketing and sit-ins -- targeting House and Senate members. The offensive will demand that these legislators not vote for these cuts.

"The elected officials need to understand that poor people number 75 million in this country," said Taylor.

On a related note, Taylor said that a march from Detroit -- home to 350,000 people in poverty -- to Michigan's capital, Lansing, will begin on Friday, September 15. It will wind up with a rally at noon, Thursday, September 21 on the steps of the capitol building.

The purpose of the march, said Taylor, will be to draw attention "to these horrendous budget cuts, to draw attention to a governor [John Engler] who hates Detroiters and people who are unemployed." The march will begin at 3 p.m. September 21 in front of St. Leo's Church, at Grand River and 15th Street in Detroit. Persons interested in joining the march and in supporting the fight against the budget cuts can contact the NWRU at 13220 Woodward Avenue, Highland Park, Michigan 48203. Telephone 313-868-3660.

The National Welfare Rights Union was founded in 1966. The next NWRU convention is tentatively planned for 1996 or 1997 in New Orleans, Taylor said.

This article originated in the PEOPLE'S TRIBUNE (Online Edition), Vol. 22 No. 29 / September 18, 1995; P.O. Box 3524, Chicago, IL 60654, or WWW:

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