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Poor Resist Mother's Day Massacre

by Kim DeFranco |
May 31, 2002
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Protest at capitol
Welfare Rights protesters say 'no' to a budget that fails poor families, demands end to welfare time limits. (Fight Back! News/Kim DeFranco)

St. Paul, MN - "We call it the 'Mother's Day Massacre,'" said Trishalla Bell, of the Welfare Rights Committee. "The politicians chose Sunday afternoon - Mother's Day - to vote to throw thousands of Minnesota kids into the streets," she continued. Bell was talking about the May 12 vote of the Minnesota legislative budget bill conference committee against language for a moratorium on the welfare time limit.

"This means, that starting July 1 of this year, families will start being cut off basic survival cash assistance," explained Linden Gawboy of WRC. Minnesota state law has a five-year lifetime limit on welfare for families with children. While the law offers extensions for cases of severe disability, the Welfare Rights Committee was pushing for a three-year moratorium on welfare time limits. "The way the law is now, most parents have to be working in paid employment in order to get an extension to your welfare benefits after five years. Not only is that just stupid, 'cuz if you had a job, you probably wouldn't need the welfare, but we are in recession right now. It's hard for people with skills to find any job!"

Gillie Townsend, a mother of three, said, "I'm outraged that these politicians have the nerve to tell us 'go get a job' and not be willing to stop the time limits. I have looked for jobs and there are none out that my family can survive on without some kind public assistance. These people are insane and not in touch with our reality."

The Welfare Rights Committee did not stop fighting after the 'Mother's Day Massacre' vote. "We kept going back to capitol almost every day until the end of the session to demand that the politicians undo the vote, and to expose the House Republicans for the lizards that they are," said one member. "We were even there, with all our kids, at 11:00 on Saturday night, the last day of session."

Diaper Dump at the Governor's Office

After the session, the WRC targeted the Governor Jesse Ventura. On May 22, WRC members and supporters presented Ventura's office with nearly 800 disposable baby diapers. With TV cameras rolling, the protesters handed over 80 bags of 10 diapers each, one by one, to the governor's fuming staff. Each diaper had a sticker signed by a Minnesotan that called on the governor to stop the time limit on welfare. WRC had gathered the signatures during the moratorium campaign. Trishalla Bell declared, "These diapers are symbolic of the over 6000 babies and children who will be throw into the streets. Governors are supposed to deal with disasters - we want him to deal with this one now!"

The Battle Ahead

"Right now, we are getting the word out to the community about what we can do to qualify for the extensions that we did win last year," said WRC's Deb Konechne. The Committee says it will watch to make sure that counties are not denying extensions unfairly. Kim Hosmer noted, "There will be different policies. Some counties will be finding ways of extending people, other counties will go out of their way not to extend. We will be watching out for discrimination." Konechne continued, "As a result of our work, some counties are finding ways to extend almost everyone who's hitting their time limit on July 1. We fought hard to make the welfare time limits an issue that this state could not ignore. We will not stop fighting to undo these sick time limits!"