Michigan Welfare Rights Organization
"You get what you are organized to take!"
Message to the Grass Roots
by Maureen D. Taylor, State Chair, MWRO
April 17, 2008 - We are witnessing phenomena that no American worker has ever seen before. The wheels of society are coming off, and the train wreck is straight ahead. Capitalism can no longer sustain itself on the usual principles of exploit and exploit again. There is no fat left to trim, so corporations are coming after our very throats. Gone are the days when mega-companies had the capacity to “pimp” foreign workers in other countries with the “Sixth Fleet” as the bully sitting off in the harbor to ensure corporate victories.
There is a new player at the table, called “technology” and it is the most ruthless combatant of all. It takes no prisoners, leaving only the bodies of American dreamers scattered here and there. Technology used to enhance work, make jobs easier and force production to go higher. We could make more with better machines. Things have change. Technology has now replaced workers, and we are not ready to accept that reality even though we see it every day. There is no need to provide decent employment and wages for the American worker any longer. Workers routinely work 8-9-10 hrs a day with NO benefits while the heads of these corporations earn millions of dollars in salaries and stock options. There is no need to stop home foreclosures of ordinary workers. There is no need to feed ordinary workers. There is no need to educate ordinary workers. Why provide healthcare, since we are NEVER going back to work again. No water? No utilities? Children randomly killing each other? Seniors dying before their time? Homeless shelters filled? Corruption in government??? Why not? We deserve just what we are getting because we have no further value since we can’t produce wealth for the master any longer.
This is the future for Detroiters and for all workers unless we start to organize in self-defense. The world is at stake. The lives of our children and grandchildren are at stake. The kind of world we want is in danger unless we take a stand. There are patterns we have to start to recognize if we are to survive. This enemy is just like “Jaws.” The eating frenzy is fierce as they bloody the waters of humanity. They consume the weakest among us first…poor helpless children and their poor, unorganized parents. Welfare recipients are provided just under $4/per day, per meal per family member. Criminal! Cognitive problems, brain strains come with under nourished children who grow up to be under nourished adults with learning disabilities. Every time we allow poverty to continue and grow, we put another nail in the coffin of another unnamed child.
We get what we are organized to take. To the American worker, whether you are employed or unemployed…the future of this country is in your hands. Organize…do something!
THE DAY LABOR GOT PUNKED!!
September 5, 2006-The days of union solidarity among organized labor is almost gone. The death knell rang slowly but loudly as Detroit staged the worst, most unorganized worker celebration in memory. In years past, labor both organized and unorganized took over Woodward Avenue for the duration of the Labor Day Parade events, and our families stood along the sidewalks waiting for us to appear in mass. We had courage, we had depth, we had commitment and we were a galvanizing force with a clear and unequivocal message - we built this country, and we plan to keep it!
WHEN DID SPINA BIFIDA SET IN? This dreaded disease attacks the spinal cord and renders total paralysis, which is what we witnessed in Detroit, this Labor Day, 2006. Local authorities in charge of march permits set the tone by making workers march only on one side of Woodward, when we ALWAYS took over the entire street in years past. The Teamsters trucks used to start the march with side-by-side rigs driving south to lead the parade, their horns blaring the sounds of strength. All labor vehicles in the Detroit parade were directed off Woodward Avenue at Grand Circus Park except for the car Martha Reeves was in, and when the marshals were asked why she was allowed to ride down Woodward, it was because they were told to let the “dignitaries” go through.
Such is the state of organized labor. Why are we surprised at the dwindling membership given the pitiful, paltry, spineless, pathetic performance provided this day, a day that is sacred and important in the history of working people? WHERE THE HELL IS THE RANK & FILE?
I heard someone say that the union movement should just go join AARP where at least they would get better representation. The Detroit Teachers Union is out on a critical protest, suggesting that they are picketing on behalf of our children and for generations of teachers to come. Where the hell were they this morning? Thousands of striking educators should have been LEADING this damn parade with handfuls of information to pass out. AWOL! Thousands of airline flight attendants are out on a critical protest, suggesting that they are picketing for the greater good of airline employees everywhere as they demand fair wages. Where the hell were they this morning? AWOL! Workers in every venue are under attack with wages, with benefits, with pensions, with rights to unionize, and we walk on this day, with our guts missing in action – our man and womanhood eviscerated.
Workers, all we have is our ability to work in exchange for a fair wage and for a chance that our children can experience better than what we have. We must fight for a quality of life that insures such an existence. When we reach that point where such a vision under current conditions is no longer possible, workers must move to make Detroit live up to her potential, for to do less makes us less than human beings. We are afraid to sign recall petitions, afraid to sign-up to help impeach President Bush, afraid to march on both sides of Woodward. Maybe, we just don’t care anymore. Happy Labor Day, Detroit!
August 10, 2006--Dear Friends! Sorry for the vacant space that has been posted on our site, but it’s because we have been in every fight there is. Let us recount what has occurred.
First, on June 14th, 2006, the Venezuelan Ambassador visited us at a special reception we had in honor of his first trip to Michigan, and it was off the hook. When Ambassador Alvarez Hererra arrived at the International Institute, he was greeted like a rock star by the hundreds of guests who came to “meet and greet” him. The event was historic…each participant provided a potluck food dish that ranged from main courses, to salads, to fruits, and there were tables and tables of scrumptious desserts! Just the cordoned-off food area alone was spectacular, a sentiment shared by the Ambassador and his contingent!
The brief program included personal greetings from several groups. There was a greeting from the children, from the youth, from the seniors, from labor, and from the Cuban Labor Exchange delegation. Welfare Rights presented the Ambassador with a special plaque, thanking President Chavez for helping our members to attend the World Social Forum held in Venezuela. After these brief welcomes, each greeter presented the Ambassador with two red carnations, one from the giver, and the other from the group being represented. He then made remarks to the eagerly waiting crowd, after which we asked him to bless the food and the gathering. It was a magic moment, in deed!
When his prayers and good wishes were spoken, the ladies started organizing the distribution of this great feast which included bringing samples of the Detroit “bounty” to the stage were our guests were seated. We learned that the Ambassador was a lover of good food as was his traveling party! They all dived into the ribs, the chicken, the shrimp, and into the other delectables that were presented. A good time was truly had by all.
The event lasted just under two hours and when he left us, he promised to make this the first of several contacts. He has stuck to his word, and we will share these next steps in another issue. Thank you to all who attended and who donated the most wonderful food ever seen or tasted. It was YOU who made this event so memorable, and it WILL BE YOU who reap the benefits for this next, historic step! Boy, do we have MORE plans to talk with you about at a later date! Stay tuned…MWRO. Click here for more Messages to the Grassroots
May 11, 2006--“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” somehow describes what Detroiters have been through this week. In Highland Park, the animals that beat and killed a family man at the Coney Island Restaurant that we all witnessed on camera were identified and arraigned. That it happened was awful. That they were abducted was decent. That they were so young, 16 and 17 years old, was sad.
Roger Penske, corporate mogul and multi-millionaire, came to the Council table and solved the regular and bulk pick-up problem for downtown Detroit businesses and other dwellings. From Beaubien to Cass, from the River to Adams St, trash will be picked up with the generous grant he has graciously provided from funds he gleaned from the $300 million dollar grossing Superbowl. With over $1 million this year, and over $1 million next year, he has arranged to get downtown streets cleaned and the trash removed with some of the funds going to staff identified by Goodwill Industries. That disabled Goodwill participants will be paid to help clean is good. That the salaries they will be paid are well below union wages is wrong. That the area targeted for this generosity is so small is bad. That we can’t get city services past the downtown area is sad.
Vallory Johnson, Co-Chairperson of the Highland Park Human Rights Coalition, stars in the newest documentary about the problems of water that residents in Highland Park continue to have. She is the bright heroine, fighting for access and demanding that all people be afforded the human right to have water made available. In this soon-to-be-released feature that will appear in New York this month at a series of off-Broadway film festivals, she is brilliant in her rage and her militancy as she takes on the Highland Park Water Dept. and the Council with her voice raised in defiance and righteousness. What a warrior! What a champion! What a blessing to have her in our ranks, and what sadness we feel as we announce that she joined the ancestors late this afternoon at home with her family surrounding her. We will continue our fight for humanity, for equal access, and for justice in Highland Park, in Detroit, in Michigan, and in the U.S. as we close ranks and remember…“it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” No Regrets! Sleep well, your race is completed and you are victorious!
The Highland Park Human Rights Coalition, the Grateful People of both H.P. and Detroit, and Michigan Welfare Rights.
April 21, 2006--Dottie Stevens, Chairperson of the Massachusetts Welfare Rights Organization, was our first member to run for Governor in that state. Viola Francois, Chairperson of the New Orleans Welfare Rights Union, organized our national conference where we were wined and dined by the Mayor at that time, Mayor Marc Morial. Ethel Long-Scott, Chairperson of the Women's Economic Agenda Project (WEAP), the Welfare Rights affiliate in Oakland/San Francisco, organized the West coast training for the national membership that put us on the path toward accessing greater economic vision. Cheri Honkala, former chairperson of the powerful Kensington Welfare Rights Union (and Co-Chairperson of the National Welfare Rights Union), organized the oil and gasoline contributions that come from a special organizational supporter, President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez. Marian Kramer, Co-Chairperson of the National Welfare Rights Union, put it all together, and through her magnificent leadership, all these victories have been accomplished.
Across the country, our members are engaged in changing the way America treats the poor, organizing programs that alter the dynamic between the rich and those who work for a living, including those who have already lost our jobs. The success of bringing down the crooked Detroit City Clerk, Jackie Currie, and the success of bringing up the Water Affordability Plan comes because we stand on the shoulders of many Welfare Rights members, and other great revolutionaries. We soon are coming to another Memorial Day, a moment set aside to recall the fighters in our midst that brought favor and honor to the country, many heroes who are unsung.
Michigan Welfare Rights takes this moment to call out the names of a few of those on whose shoulders these recent victories stand. By the time Memorial Day gets here, we will already be fully engaged in the on-going struggle to demand a higher quality of life for those of us who have the least.
Our Honor Role:
Ancestors and members of Welfare Rights: Annie Smart, Flora Punch, Faith Evans, Thelma Echols, Mae Payne, Diane Bernard, Mary Love, Aggie Smith.
Current members in the leadership guard: Sylvia Orduno, Sheila Barnes, Ruth Williams, Karen Schaumann, Nellie Jeffries, Charles Simmons, General Baker, Sandra Green, Vanessa Parks, Sharon Taylor, Edward Taylor, Elena Herrada, Chicago and Lisa Richards, Diane Dujon, and many more.
Praises to our new friends and co-revolutionaries: Call ‘Em Out, the League of Revolutionary Black Workers, Keep The Vote - No Takeover, the New Marcus Garvey Movement, The Detroit Green Party, the Million Worker March Movement, the Michigan Citizen, The Labor Party, The Rev. Sami Muhammed, Brush Park, Mid-City Citizens District Councils, and LRNA, and others.
There is no end to what great work we can perform in the service of our community, our state, our nation, and our world. Happy Cinco De Mayo, and a safe & gracious Memorial Day from Michigan WRO.
March 26, 2006--What does this describe? We are being picked off, neighborhood after neighborhood, by elected hoodlums who live like royalty at our expense. We are assaulted daily by an on-going campaign of misinformation spawned by major media hoodlums, and we are left at the end of the day with our hands trembling as we wonder where the truth is. We are exposed to stories every moment about the street hoodlums who openly violate the peace of the block, some of the violators dressed in Detroit Police uniforms. Women and children are in danger when out after dark. Seniors must get indoors before sundown. Both school children and school education are under attack. We can’t get an accounting of where the city finances have gone that put us in this dismal shape. We can’t get bulk pick up. The city suffers as the local government assigns private companies to operate those sites that made Detroit special, while the residents who work at those places have their benefits and salaries slashed to bare bones existence.
Water, a human right, is routinely disconnected at the homes of the disabled, the aged, the low income and the unemployed and the Water Dept. budget again in 2006-2007 assumes 45,000 more new addresses will be shut off. The reward for cutting off water to suffering Detroiters is to offer the Water Czar a $10,000 increase in his already inflated salary. Ten’s of thousands are without heat and lights at this moment. We have no health care, public transportation is unreliable, unemployment is up, welfare is fading, help is harder to find and the churches close early on Sundays. It looks like, it feels like, it smells like, it tastes like, it sounds like war…and it is!
There was a time when there was room for expansion under this present American system, where it was appropriate and expected for workers to demand a higher hourly wage, or more days off throughout the year, or other labor perks that improved our quality of life. Those days are gone, and we are now engaged in a full court life and death battle with corporations that eat workers for a living! Our futures, our body parts, our pensions, our children, the well being of our families, these things are no longer sacred and like the comedian Monique says, “We better get with the (blank-blank) program.” Our very souls are being offered up as sacrifices on the altar of greed and the bag men (and women) who are delivering us blind-folded to these corporate cannibals are our local politicians.
We are marching, demonstrating every week at the home of some local politician who sliced the people in some way, and we want to and need to complain about the pain they caused us. Soon, we will organize marches at the home of all those who would keep water and lights and gas from us, be they Water Directors, or Federal Judges, or Governors…no one is above the will of the people and so no one should expect to be free from our wrath.
Today, we are engaged in small skirmishes, out on the periphery, circling ever closer to the core of our misery. The army of the people is growing, in such battles across the nation, in search of the truth. Soon, these angry streams will start to flow together into rivers of discontent as we connect the dots day by day, disappointment by disappointment. Little Quincy, just four years old, perished in a fire, the apple of his mother’s eye and her only child, because DTE had already disconnected their service. A space heater was all they had, and because it malfunctioned, we lost yet another child to the crime of poverty. Each death is another marker on this trail of tears that we have been marching on for so long.
We are approaching the moment where we realize that our earth, our freedom, and all its people are in danger as long as these corporate hoodlums hold the power of life and death. When that time comes, the people will raise up a tidal wave of resistance so powerful, that it will wipe off the face of the earth this enemy of freedom forever. We can feed everyone. We can house everyone. We can educate everyone. We can clothe everyone. We can build cars for everyone. We can provide affordable public transportation, healthcare, water, utilities, and a bright future for us all, so let’s stay focused and keep our eyes on the prize! “People get ready, there’s a train a coming; don’t need no baggage, you just get on board!”
March 20, 2006--Several significant, progressive events took place this last week that deserve mention so that those of us who are discouraged can gain heart. As we approach the Easter season, a religious holiday that is important in the lives of many Detroiters, let us all pause and take stock of these things together.
First, a large group of responsible persons commemorated the third anniversary of the Iraq War. We are looking at 2,300 plus dead on this side, 17,000 plus injured on this side, and $200 billion spent so far on this side. My question??? Why are anti-war protests attended mostly by white Americans? People of color don’t care for government-sponsored carnage either, but are few in marches even in cities where people of color are the predominant force. What is this about…
Next, on Sunday, a large group of sad picketers marched in front of our former ‘favorite’ son’s home to declare our anger and angst at his recent signings as a new Council member. The visit to member Kwame Kenyatta house was sparked because of a series of errant votes he cast, including voting to purchase a new police tank, to privatize parts of the Detroit Zoo, and most saliently hurtful was his signature of a resolution increasing water rates when we needed him to maintain this bargaining chip. The Water Affordability Program was being discussed and we would have help greater leverage in forcing a serious review of this plan had he not buckled. What is this about…
Next, news has trickled out again about how much of a band of liars the Water Dept is and how much they HATE us all. On Bloody Friday, March 10, 2006, when some of the Detroit City Council flimflammed the community and forced a crooked water rate increase through, representatives from the Water Dept. were asked point blank, if there were plans to lay off water employees. All the water administrative staff persons, including that low-down, enemy of the people, Water Director Victor Mercado claimed there were no such plans. Members of the Water Union, Local 207, produced the letter they received on March 13, 2006, that lists the staff positions in the Water Dept. that are slated for early April layoffs. We are so-o-o-o disrespected, that today, the Detroit News has exposed the flash that the Mayor has asked Federal Court Judge Feikens to approve his request to spend $12 million more in new payments to existing water contractors for cost over-runs. A high part of that request includes $7.5 million mores for one of the Mayor’s “road-dogs,” and a low part of this new request will cover a $10,000 raise for the Water Director, Victor Mercado. “HEY, DETROIT WATER EMPLOYEES!!!” Can you say, “What the hell is this?” While you are losing your jobs, while these so-called tiny water increases are being used to fund appointed, non-union positions at the six-figure level, while 45,000 more Detroiters are already slated for shut-offs this year, we can’t hear your cries. What is this about…
Finally, this is the last week in the court hearing going on in racist Benton Harbor, where the corporate giant Whirlpool is crucifying a little country preacher, the Rev. Ed Pinkney, for standing against oppression. Whirlpool wants to build condominiums and golf courses but in order to do so, they must scare the Blacks and poor Whites out of their Benton Harbor homes so that they can have their way with the land. Rev. Pinkney is charged with paying three crack heads $5.00 each to vote in a past election, and every day this drama of justice gone awry is played on with the Judge making sure that the unskilled, unprepared prosecutor’s points are properly argued in front of the jury. We pray for Rev. Pinkney, especially since we contacted the three large Methodist Churches in that area asking that they help him…"No," they said -- he was Baptist. Happy Holidays and remember what Dr. Martin Luther King said…”We are gonna go on, anyhow.…”
March 12, 2006--The first of several street demonstrations held at the homes of elected officials accused of gross harm and negligence to the community was held today at the residence of the infamous Monica Conyers, newly appointed to the Detroit City Council by the previous City Clerk, the convicted one -- Jackie Currie. The reason for this grassroots action is because Mrs. Conyers is one of the Council renegades who voted to raise the water rates last Friday in a coup d'état that hijacked parliamentary procedures that these elected officials always embrace.
This level of treachery is so critical, that no one in the grassroots community can stand idly by and not chastise those who engineered this assault on our already shaken quality of life. It was imperative to our well-being for these middle-class politicians to hold the line on this issue, until the Water Affordability Program was implemented which would save both the City and the suburbs from having to institute a rate increase. The City was reluctant, but willing to support the Program which would spread out water payments and allow even the destitute to pay without fear of being shut off. The six turncoats that voted to increase the rates sent a message…”we don’t care about the 45,000 who had water disconnected last year, and we are even less concerned about the 45,000 who are budgeted to have a similar fate this year!” There can be no other conclusion.
We have one bargaining chip left that we are prepared to use, and that is to put our water payments into an escrow account which will protect our water from being turned off, while we don’t let the Water Dept. have these dollars until we get something favorable worked out. This week, the subject matter experts are scheduled to meet and iron out any kinks in the Water Affordability Program, and look for ways to implement it a.s.a.p. That, of course, is what they tell us and our lawyers, but their history of lies and deceit make it more possible for nothing of substance to come forward unless the street actions continue. They will continue, because the people are on a mission.
Here is the first lesson that grassroots groups must learn in order to gain more victories. We must demonstrate to the people that we are in war, and they don’t know it yet. The great international speaker, Nelson Peery, explains it best. When conquering Europeans came to the American shores with their scurvy, their dysentery, and all of the ailments they brought after being on a ship for weeks and months, Native Americans fed them, clothed them, gave them quinine, Pepto Bismal, aloe vera, brought out the corn and the turkey and other natural healing medicines. They cared for them, and nursed them back to health and when they were better, they stole the land, the women, and slaughtered them for the rest. The problem…these Native Americans didn’t know was that they were in a war. Americans today aren’t aware that shots have been fired over and over again warning us that war had arrived on our shores, and Detroit now knows a local Katrina right here where we live.
The enemy is not dressed in redcoats or bluecoats. They don’t stand over there while we stand over here and face off against each other. The enemy looks just like we do. But they don’t feel or suffer like we do, and that’s the distinguishing factor. We pay for their water, while they don’t care if we have it. We pay for their healthcare, while they don’t care if we have none. We struggle to keep lights, heat, and gas in our cars, while they gladly accept the gift of the same for them. They live like royalty at our expense, and are insulted if you question them about this or that vote. They operate above the law.
Today, Mrs. Conyers entered her expensive car and drove away, grinning at how we looked marching orderly in front of her well manicured home that we helped pay off over these years. We are probably lucky because at least today, she didn’t draw a line in the dirt and ask one of us to step over it so that she could start a fight like she did in the hallway at Council last Friday. All of these moments are important in the scheme of things, especially while we look at who these people are who purport to represent us.
March 10, 2006--You can’t make this stuff up. The Detroit City Council, in order to have what’s called a “special session”, must arrange for four members to sign their approval. They only needed four, but for a measure of good luck, they signed up five renegades. To our shock and horror, a resolution to raise the rates Detroiters pay for water was introduced by none other than Kwame Kenyatta. The entire episode was stunning. First, the Council President introduced the formal vote and named the water increase resolution. He “mumbled” under his breath that this resolution would be approved, and without a vote or even a show of hands, this orchestrated tactic passed, six votes to three. Other Council members who were prepared to challenge this illegal procedure were simply ignored, and the meeting was quickly adjourned. The Council president was whisked away by his security through privately held-open doors and the masses of people in the Council chambers were livid at this miscarriage of procedure. What happened next was also a surprise.
So upset were Members Watson, Collins and Jones, a second meeting was held right there in the Chambers to discuss and explain what happened and what recourse was available to the residents. While these discussions were going on inside the chamber, Member Monica Conyers was starting a brawl out in the hallway. So violent was her persona, that security had to snatch her back into the Council area, even though the people she was screaming and cursing at were beyond the glass doors.
Then we come to the end of this fiasco. Member Kenyatta appeared in the lobby area next, seeking an audience with grassroots community leaders. He expressed his place in the scheme of things by explaining, “You (we) had nothing before he came to Council”, meaning that we should idolize the fact that he is at the table, speaking for the people. If this type of arrogant stance wasn’t enough, he went to pointing and chastising some of the women who weren’t buying this story, and the ladies responded in kind. Had his security not escorted him back behind closed doors, the ladies were moments away from that behind!
What lessons were learned? First, Dr. King was correct when he suggested we “...judge people not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character”. Next, this is a class struggle with racial overtones. Poor people in Detroit, in Benton Harbor, in Clinton Township, in Warren, and in any other community where jobs have been lost are in trouble. We are all on our own because no one will help us. There are three proven ways to make changes in our lives, and we have about exhausted two of them. We use the legislative branch when we can, we use the courts to help us when we can, but our best weapon is civil disobedience and street action.
Get your bodies in shape. Stop smoking today. Get on a vegetable diet and get ready to take to the streets in ways that will force these thieves to act in a different way. Civil war is at hand, as we suffer the abuse of the haves and their elected officials. They don’t care if we eat, if we have water, if we have jobs, if we have healthcare, or if we have education. It is closer and closer to “us vs. them”, and soon you too will have to select a side...God help us.
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