As advocates and organizers from across the U.S. prepare to go to Washington, D.C. for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights hearing on the Right to Water in the Americas next week; our biweekly spotlight for our annual UDHR Campaign is going to focus on the Michgan Welfare Rights Organization, one of the 2015 U.S. Human Rights Movement Builders Awards recipients. MWRO will be one of the organizations present in D.C. and we look forward to celebrating their work at ADVANCING HUMAN RIGHTS 2015: Sharpening Our Vision, Reclaiming our Dreams this December in Austin - register today!
The Right To Water: Michigan Welfare Rights Organization
Michigan Welfare Rights Organization is a union of public assistance recipients, low-income workers, unemployed persons and economically disenfranchised people based in Detroit. Founded in 1966, it is an original member of the National Welfare Rights Organization (NWRO) and, subsequent, National Welfare Rights Union (NWRU). MWRO organizes recipients and low-income workers on public benefits rights and toward the elimination of poverty – all while building a movement of leaders from the bottom-up on the economic and human rights of poor people.
Since President Clinton signed the Welfare Reform Act on August 22, 1996, most of the safety nets that barely separated poor people from outright hunger and homelessness have disappeared, thereby, reducing millions of residents across the U.S. to membership in the "New Great Depression." The current state of poverty and endless capitalists’ assaults on low-income people mean this work is monumental, sometimes crushing, and seemingly endless.
As an all volunteer organization, MWRO advocates and intervenes on behalf of its members -- victims of poverty -- when disputes surface between this population and service delivery agencies and/or public-private policies. MWRO sponsors community training sessions that cover eligibility for utility shut-off assistance, food stamps, Medicaid, cash assistance, disputes with landlords, ‘know your rights’ strategies and how to file a hearing when these rights are being violated.
MWRO organizes from a NWRU three-prong strategy that posits the ‘streets, courts, and legislature.’ In recent years, many of our campaigns and activities have included:
- Demanding an end to Michigan and national water shutoffs on low/no income households;
- Co-drafting a Water Affordability Plan for the Detroit Water and Sewerage Dept;
- Building international attention on U.S. human rights violations through the United Nations;
- Suing governmental agencies that violate economic and human rights provisions;
- Protesting DTE Energy electricity and natural gas shutoffs;
- Negotiating utility payment plans and tailored solutions for families at-risk of separation;
- Challenging bank and tax home foreclosures in Southeast Michigan;
- Lobbying at federal and state levels against cuts to public assistance benefits;
- Representing members in administrative court hearings;
- Training members in social service policies and advocacy;
- Coordinating the U.S. Social Forum in Detroit for social movement-building;
- Exposing political corruption and fascism in Michigan cities, e.g., Detroit, Benton Harbor;
- Co-organizing tent cities and marches against homelessness and general assistance cuts;
- Developing homeless employment programs;
- Educating communities, students and officials on poverty and rights of the poor;
- Advocating for the needs of fixed income seniors and persons with disabilities.
Maureen Taylor was elected State Chair of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization in 1993 and has strongly led this union for over 20 years. She is a professional social worker by trade and a revolutionary by choice. Maureen is a popular speaker and frequent guest on television and radio programs including, “Ask Welfare Rights,” a weekly show on WHPR in Highland Park with NWRU Co-President, Marian Kramer.
Michigan Welfare Rights Organization works in coalition with several national affiliates including People’s Water Board, Assembly to End Poverty, USA-Canada Alliance of Inhabitants, and U.S. Human Rights Network. Additionally, MWRO is a membership-based group that operates solely on individual donations and grants through its fiscal sponsor. Due to its uncompromised political activity, MWRO is not a non-profit organization.
Michigan Welfare Rights Organization
23 E. Adams St, 4th floor
Detroit, MI 48227
(313) 964-0618 office
(313) 964-2600 fax
Office hours: Mon-Wed 11am-4pm
(Photo Credit: Daymon Hartley / People's Tribune)