September 22, 2010
Public Employee Press
125 Barclay Street
New York, NY 10005
Dear Public Employee Press Editor:
I am a local 768 social worker working in pediatrics, and am troubled to read about the deal to cut $12 billion from the Food Stamp program in order to fund the $26 billion Jobs Bill. This deal was aggressively advocated for by DC37 and AFLCIO.
What is disturbing about the bill is that union politics seems to use poor people in whatever way moves our own jobs and income agendas. In February 2010, Public Employee Press did a feature story that drew attention to the overwhelming need for Food Stamp benefits across the city. It rightfully described the amount of the benefit as “meager”, and expressed outrage that food stamp applicants are waiting long hours and even being turned away due to inability to process so many new applicants. The article pointed out that 49 million American households are going without enough food. The article was called, Drowning in a Sea of Hunger, implying that if anything, more not less Food Stamps were urgently needed. At that time, the agenda was saving HRA eligibility specialist jobs from the budget cuts.
Fast forward to September 2010. The article on the victory of the Jobs Bill does not mention anywhere that $12 billion of the $26 billion will come out of the Food Stamp allotment to families whose children will be going to school hungrier starting in 2014. I hate to imagine that if the bill had proposed cutting the $12 billion by laying off HRA workers, that the union would have objected. Yet the money is coming literally out of the mouths of poor children, and the bill passes. There is something very disturbing about getting this “win” by cutting the resources of two million poor New Yorkers, then failing to mention it to union members in the September article. The PEP article in February even pointed out that six million Americans have no other income except their food stamps. Knowing this, how could the union support reducing their monthly income at all?
Joel Berg, a critic of the Jobs Bill at Food Bank NYC, the reduction per family is significant–$60 less per month for their groceries.
Who was looking out for children’s interests when this deal was made? Not DC37. Not the Obama administration. For the record, I object to the Jobs Bill as written, I deplore the union’s support for further impoverishing the families I work with, and I am certain that if PEP had clearly stated how the Bill is being funded, that many more union members would not approve.
Diane R. Pagen, LMSW
Local 768 Social Workers