GOP war on hunger isn't new

With the Supreme Court's blessing, striking workers have been denied food stamp eligibility since 1981

Published March 25, 2011 4:51PM (EDT)

So, this is embarrassing. Yesterday, along with a host of other political bloggers, I highlighted a new bill introduced by five House Republicans that contained a clause denying food stamp eligibility to the families of striking workers.

But it turns out the scoop wasn't exactly breaking news. The language has been a standard part of legislation dealing with the food stamp program since 1981 and was even upheld by the Supreme Court in 1988.

Employees' collective bargaining strength was diminished somewhat by a Supreme Court ruling that households are ineligible for food stamps when any member is on strike. In the ruling,, the Court upheld the constitutionality of a 1981 amendment to the Food Stamp Act that prohibits strikers from receiving the aid.

Writing for the majority, Justice Byron R. White said that the Congress had acted to avoid favoritism to one side or another in a labor dispute, and the Government's refusal to subsidize a strike is not an infringement of that right. Justice White acknowledged that denial of food stamps to strikers pressures them to "abandon their union" by returning to work "but the strikers' right of association does not require the Government to furnish funds to maximize the exercise of that right."

Jonathan Zasloff makes some additional 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?

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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