For the week of July 1 thru July 7, 1998  

Unions are behind criticism of Idaho welfare cuts

Commentary by Pat Murphy

Idaho is being used again as a punching bag, and the United Nations is being made a sap, again.

But that wasn’t the point of the story in Boise’s morning daily, The Idaho Statesman, when it reported matter-of-factly that two Idaho women were being flown to New York City to tell the horrors of tough new Idaho policies that trim welfare rolls.

Nope, the Statesman story had all the makings of a sob sister yarn -- an epileptic unmarried mother of two living with her mother in Garden City and barely getting by on $700 of welfare, and another mother of two living in Burley who can’t find a job in that small rural town and presumably won’t look elsewhere for work.

Rounded up by the noble-sounding Kensington Welfare Rights Union, the two will appear today before an obscure United Nations panel to suggest that Idaho violates an equally obscure provision of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights that everyone "has the right to work, to free choice of employment . . . " and so on.

Ipso facto, Idaho is awash with evil oppression of human beings, by virtue of tougher new tests for those lining up at the welfare window.

But now for The Rest of the Story -- the story of who and what really lies behind the poignant portraits of poverty and pathos painted of these two Idaho women.

I poked around on the Internet, and discovered -- lo! -- that the Kensington Welfare Rights Union is not so innocent of hidden motives and not so genuine as a guardian of the poor.

The Kensington Welfare Rights Union (Kensington is a poor suburb of North Philadelphia) is guilty of the most outrageous and disingenuous deceit.

The KWRU’s lineage says it -- KWRU is a front group for fat cats of organized labor, who’re callously exploiting nave down-and-outs in labor’s desperation to rescue sagging fortunes and membership of AFL-CIO unions.

The KWRU has its own Internet Web site, which reveals that the group is officially identified as "a chapter of the National Welfare Rights Union and an affiliate of the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees, AFSCME, AFL-CIO" as well as "an affiliate of the Labor Party."

So what interest would the AFL-CIO and the Labor Party have in attacking tough new state welfare policies, which, incidentally, are not isolated to Idaho (Congress has mandated, and states have accepted, discipline in how welfare is distributed)?

Here’s why:

The largest, fastest growing AFL-CIO union is AFSCME, the American Federation of State, County, Municipal Employees, which represents government employees in virtually every field of public service around the nation.

Guess what? AFSCME’s sub-unit, the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees, also an affiliate of KWRU, provides much of the manning for agencies and institutions that benefit from welfare programs.

So, guess which union’s members stand to lose their jobs if welfare recipients are trimmed from the rolls and welfare programs shrink?

One need not be a cynic to grasp what fat-cat bosses of organized labor and AFSCME are up to:

Failing to win their case for maintaining easy-come-easy-go welfare programs with politician friends in Washington and state legislatures, organized labor hopes that whimpering mothers spinning their tales of welfare woe to a United Nations panel will humiliate Congress and states to restore programs to their robust level.

In turn, union members won’t lose jobs and unions won’t lose dues-paying members.

Fat chance.

Just as the National Rifle Association lost sympathy of most Americans with ugly, shortsighted anti-social tactics, so, too, the AFL-CIO is fouling its own nest by suggesting U.S. policies need the same UN attention as tyrannies in Rwanda and Iraq.

If the United States is such an awful place, why then are millions trying to illegally storm our shores for jobs, to which the AFL-CIO seems oblivious?

It’s also worth mentioning that one of the AFL-CIO’s long-term goals is a "guaranteed" job for every adult American, something that not even socialist and Marxist states such as the Soviet Union could do in its heyday.

Guaranteeing jobs is like, well, guaranteeing that all labor unions are honest.

Pat Murphy is the retired publisher of the Arizona Republic and a former radio commentator.


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