For Crying out Loud: Women's Poverty in the United States

By Diane Dujon; Ann Withorn | Go to book overview

WELFARE: THE BASEMENT OF THE
WAGE SCALE

Sandy Felder

WE NEED TO ACKNOWLEDGE THAT THERE HAVE BEEN SOME conflicting values between welfare rights activists and paid workers over the question of work outside of the home. Union members and workers in general have pride in the fact that they work. Work by itself has value to them and to our work-oriented society. People are valued by the kind of work they do, and the importance of work is a basic premise of our society. Welfare rights activists have believed that society should support a woman's right to stay at home and raise her children and not require her to work outside of the home.

By itself, raising children should be considered a full-time job and should be valued and paid; however, this view does not hold with union members in general. There are a lot of workers -- women workers -- who raise children and work full-time jobs outside of the house. So when you talk to workers with families, you need to appreciate that they are saying, "I have children; I work; it's hard, but I manage." There is not a lot of sympathy for the argument that says welfare recipients should not have to work.

Instead, we need to remind workers about why welfare exists, and that in the long run, it is there for them in case they need it too. Unions have fought for good jobs, and when those jobs are lost, unions have fought for unemployment benefits to protect the laid-off worker. Welfare is the safety net when unemployment runs out.

So, understanding that workers feel proud that they work against all odds; that they are glad to have unemployment as an insurance in case they lose their jobs, workers need also to be helped to realize

____________________
This piece was compiled from an interview conducted by Diane Dujon.

-215-

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