Fight Back News Service is circulating the following speech given by Cherrene Horazuk, president of AFSCME Local 3800, in support of raising Minnesota’s welfare grants. Horazuk delivered this speech at the Jan. 8 protest organized by the Welfare Rights Committee.
Tax the rich! Defend public services and the people who provide them
We know that the United States is in year four of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression; and
We know that poor and working people are sinking deeper into crisis, while banks, corporations, and the wealthy continue to get bailouts and tax breaks; and
We know that during the Great Depression, working people organized for and won the creation of social safety net programs such as Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare, that ensured survival for poor and working people; and that those benefits were expanded in the Great Society programs of the 1960’s to include welfare (or what is now called TANF - Temporary Assistance for Needy Families); and
We know that the vast majority of welfare recipients are women, children, and families of people with disabilities. In 2008, when the current economic crisis began, 28.7% of the households headed by single women were considered poor. In 2010, the poverty rate for single-mother families was 40.7% compared to 8.8% for married-couple families; and
We know that, welfare provides income security and an economic safety net that allows women and children to leave abusive situations; and
We know that our communities are facing high unemployment, shortage of living wage jobs and the foreclosure crisis has caused rents to spike; and
We know that people are running out of unemployment insurance without a job that pays the bills to take its place; and
We know that 150 clerical workers at the U lost their jobs during this crisis. Jobs that barely paid enough to take care of their families. Now they are trying to live on unemployment and we know some have turned to public assistance.
We know that welfare creates a floor below which wages cannot fall; and
We know that public employees are on the front lines when families in our communities come in needing help and we see how inadequate the welfare grants are to meet families’ needs; and
We know that same politicians and media pundits who vilify public employees also vilify the clients we serve - the recipients of social safety net programs; and
We know that these same politicians try to turn us against each other; giving a choice between saving welfare programs or saving public sector jobs
We know, in our fight to defend our jobs; our most logical allies are the recipients of the services we provide; and
Today is the opening day of the legislative session and the state legislature and Governor Dayton have to set priorities and make choices.
They can listen to the people – the 99%, those who elected them. Or they can listen to the corporations and ruling elite – the 1%.
They can fund desperately needed services, and create public jobs with good pay and benefits, - supporting the people who really drive this economy – the working people who make things run, and the poor and unemployed who are desperately looking for a step up and the ability to care for themselves and their families.
Or they can give more handouts to the corporations and the elite who will enrich themselves.
They can rob Peter to pay Paul.
Or they can tax the rich.
We demand that they hold public institutions like the U of M accountable, and that the U stop bloating the administration while cutting frontline jobs and raising tuition.
We demand that they increase the TANF grants; which have not seen a single increase in 26 years; and
We demand that vital services are universally available and fully funded; and
We demand that they increase child care subsidies in addition to increasing TANF funds, so as to ensure a livable wage for childcare providers and full welfare benefits for recipients; and
We demand that they fund social programs that base their success on helping families achieve economic self-sufficiency through training and job placements that lead to stable jobs, living wages, good benefits and career ladders; and
We demand that they tax the rich.