ABSTRACT

The most ubiquitous slogan of the welfare rights movement was “welfare is a right.” T-shirts, banners, buttons, and posters were emblazoned with that short but provocative phrase. Welfare activists believed, as New York City welfare recipient Jennette Washington succinctly stated, that they “have a right to [welfare] because the Constitution says that everyone has a right to life. Life includes everything necessary to maintain life.”1 In the 1960s, welfare organizers sought to make the r ight to welfare available to everyone. The movement’s early campaigns to bring AFDC under constitutional protection and raise the standard of living for welfare recipients contributed to this goal. The right to welfare, however, was most clearly embodied in the movement’s demand for a guar anteed annual income, which would make economic status the only cr iteria for elig ibility and se ver the historic link between employment and income. Since the 1966 founding convention, a guaranteed income had been NWRO’s long-term goal, but little had been done to explicitly plan or organize for it.