Some outrage in Blue Blogistan about a proposed law from House Republicans that would deny union members and their families of Food Stamp benefits if they are on strike. Chait notes that “obviously the intent here is to increase the bargaining power of management vis a vis its workforce by increasing the threat of severe deprivation to anybody contemplating a labor strike. I don’t believe these members of Congress actually sought to punish the spouses and children of striking workers, but when you’re waging class war, collateral damage is inevitable.”
Very true. Well, guess what? The joke’s on us because this horrid bill is current law. 7 U.S.C. sec. 415(d)(3) reads:
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a household shall not participate in the supplemental nutrition assistance program at any time that any member of such household, not exempt from the work registration requirements of paragraph (1) of this subsection, is on strike as defined in section 142(2) of Title 29, because of a labor dispute (other than a lockout) as defined in section 152(9) of Title 29: Provided, That a household shall not lose its eligibility to participate in the supplemental nutrition assistance program as a result of one of its members going on strike if the household was eligible immediately prior to such strike, however, such household shall not receive an increased allotment as the result of a decrease in the income of the striking member or members of the household: Provided further, That such ineligibility shall not apply to any household that does not contain a member on strike, if any of its members refuses to accept employment at a plant or site because of a strike or lockout.
This provision, according to my colleague Noah Zatz (who specializes in employment law and public benefits law) was put in by the Reagan Administration in 1981. In other words, the provision that progressives are screaming about now has been the law for nearly thirty years now. And no one has seen fit to do anything about it. (Food Stamps is now called the “supplemental nutrition assistance program” so it’s the same program).
This reveals two points:
1) There is nothing in current Republican policy that really diverges from Reaganism. The entire push of the American Right since Reagan has been to crush labor in particular and working Americans in general. This is just working out of the general program.
2) It says something quite pathetic about the state of progressive America that none of us seemed to know anything about this, and that promoting the rights of working people has been pushed so far to the background that we can’t even see a lot of its most pernicious manifestations.
What’s worse? That the Right has declared class war on working Americans? Or that progressives haven’t even been aware of it?