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MN Human Services Hack O'Keefe Challenged

by Mick Kelly |
December 25, 2000
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St Paul, MN - The Minnesota Welfare Rights Coalition (MN-WRC) put Michael O'Keefe, the state commissioner of Human Services, in the hot seat on December 3.

After picketing the Department's headquarters, members of the Twin Cities-based Welfare Rights Committee, and Duluth's Low Income People Organizing for Power, headed inside for the confrontation with O'Keefe.

Low-income people packed the room and proceeded to indict the systematic abuses that are a part of Minnesota's welfare program, MFIP-S. The meeting was firmly chaired by Coalition members, while a sullen and angry O'Keefe tried to defend the welfare law.

"The Department of Human Services, headed by Michael O'Keefe, is leading the attacks against poor people and people of color in Minnesota," said Tamika Johnson of the MN-WRC.

Chili George, of the Welfare Rights Committee, slammed the planned $100 grant cut for all families living in subsidized housing.

"Commissioner O'Keefe and the DHS should repeal the $100 cut in the bill that will be presented at the legislature, and push the legislators to repeal it," said George. "The DHS should be working to bring all families out of poverty, instead of pushing us further down."

O'Keefe agreed to take the matter up with the Governor.

The meeting's sharpest debate took place around the issue of sanctions, the grant cuts that can be imposed by welfare workers or "job counselors."

Angela Griffin stated, "Economic sanctions are used by government as acts of war against people of other countries. Minnesota's welfare 'reform' program, MFIP, is imposing economic sanctions on women, children and families."

"I think the sanctions have positive merit in this system" said O'Keefe.

Marvella Davis, of Low Income People Organizing for Power, responded, "You are saying sanctions are good while people are becoming homeless and can't pay the rent."

One participant in the meeting said that O'Keefe should see what is would be like to be in our shoes, and then corrected herself, saying, "No, you shouldn't, you wouldn't survive".

O'Keefe, who repeatedly threatened to leave the meeting, got a clear message from the low-income community. The battle lines have been drawn, and the DHS will be among those getting the heat this legislative session.

Duluth Slams O'Keefe, "Enemy of The Poor"

Duluth, MN - Michael O'Keefe, Jesse Ventura's Commissioner of Human Services, faced a picket line of low income people, when he arrived to speak at a meeting of the MN Council of Non-Profits, October 8. Organized by Low Income People Organizing for Power (LIPOP), and joined by the Twin Cities-based Welfare Rights Committee, demonstrators sent a clear message: Minnesota's welfare law, the MN Family Investment Plan (MFIP), is a disaster.

Derrick Parker, of LIPOP stated, "O'Keefe is the new man in charge. This is a good opportunity to speak out and challenge the problems with MFIP."