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Welfare mothers fight back.

Governor Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin has built a national reputation as a welfare reformer, so it was no surprise when he launched his "Work Not Welfare" program, which got a green light from the Clinton Administration in November. Like such previous Thompson programs as Learnfare and Bridefare, the new program aims to do away with "welfare dependency" by cutting off government benefits if women and children on AFDC fail to meet certain conditions. Under the new program, Thompson aims to end payments to AFDC recipients altogether after two years.

But the people who will be affected by this program are not taking it lying down. A group of mothers on welfare who call themselves the Welfare Rights Organizing Committee held a rally on the steps of the Capitol in Madison to protest the plan and speak out on what was wrong with it.

"Thompson is blaming poor mothers and their children for problems with the economy and further burdening the poor," says Terri Murray, one of the group's founders. "This doesn't address the causes of poverty." Murray and Fannie Mims, another member of the group, point out that welfare recipients have not been involved in the process of coming up with programs that drastically affect their lives.

"We're the ones living in the system, and even though they're the ones implementing the system, they need to come out and talk with us about what could get people off of welfare," says Mims, "like providing child care and better wages."

"The work-not-welfare concept is great," she says. "It's a lot of welfare recipients' dream to work and be self-sufficient. But the way he's got it structured, he's just putting people on the street."

Now that the Thompson program has passed, members of the Welfare Rights Organizing Committee are planning to help women on welfare in Wisconsin plan how to get by if they lose all government benefits. They are also pressuring officials to consider more constructive alternatives to Thompson's programs.
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Title Annotation:Wisconsin
Publication:The Progressive
Date:Dec 1, 1993
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