Aug. 4 event to tell the truth about Florida's welfare destruction program
Jenny Brown
July/August 1998

As the state's Welfare reform grinds forward, further limiting the options and increasing the pain for unemployed people and their families, everyone should be concerned about what is happening, even if they think they could never end up without an income. In Florida, the program is called WAGES (for Work And Gain Employment Self-sufficiency) in a dose of doubletalk worthy of the defense Department.

The goal of the WAGES program is not, of course, to get people decent jobs, but to force more and more folks into desperate competition for work, so that they can hire all of us for cheaper and cheaper wages.

How do we know they don't have people's best interest at heart? For starters, provisions for childcare, medical coverage, and school are almost non-existent.

The other way we know they're not interested in people getting decent-paying jobs is that at every turn, big business and their government lackies try to keep out or destroy unions, which are the main force that makes for jobs people can actually subsist on. When corporations get together and lower our wages and call it an economic boom (the minimum wage is less in real dollars than it was in 1970) that's called "free enterprise." When workers get together and insist on higher wages, that's "grounds for firing."

Meanwhile, big business just can't seem get "self-sufficient" either. But instead of austerity and insults they get tax breaks and loopholes, and big "grants" to help them advertise abroad or build a new stadium. When CEO's lose their jobs they get million-dollar bonuses and golden parachutes.

When working people lose their jobs they get a few months of unemployment, if you even had a job long enough to qualify, and that only pays half what you were making. After it runs out, you're stuck. It doesn't have to be this way. In many countries in Europe, all the people are guaranteed health care, childcare, and unemployment payments until you get another job. You also get as much as 6 months of paid maternity leave so you don't have to lose your job if you have a child. And in Eastern Europe before 1989, unemployment had been virtually eliminated, for both women and men.

Harriet Ludwig of the Community Coalition Against Poverty says, "I have been monitoring the WAGES meetings since January 1996. It is a badly planned (maybe no planning?) program which took effect October 1, 1996 in order to get federal money."

The Community Coalition Against Poverty is holding a forum on Tuesday, August 4, at 8 p.m. at the Civic Media Center, 1021 W. University Ave.. The Coalition says, "Would you like to hear the WAGES story from welfare customers who can tell it like it is--without any bureaucratic double talk? Are you aware that a welfare mom with two kids who lives in low-rent housing (HUD) receives a monthly check of $258? Even with low rent, food stamps and Medicaid, how do you think such a family meets the expenses of daily living?"

For more information on the program, contact Harriet with Community Coalition Against Poverty at 378-1138.

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