WIN believes that poverty is at the root of economic justice and is linked to the Economic Justice issue 


Poverty and Economic Justice – 2005


POVERTY TASK FORCE, Chair Ethel Long-Scott, 1995

This initial draft statement prepared and submitted by The Women’s Economic Agenda Project (WEAP) was endorsed by consensus by this Task Force as the California plank on Poverty. The following includes approved amendments .


“We challenge our government to change its attitude towards women. We seek to empower, educate, organize and advocate for the eradication of poverty to obtain economic opportunities, autonomy and equal access to economic resources.”



The CAWA Poverty Task Force, under the leadership of the Women’s Economic Agenda Project, is dedicated to implementing the “Platform of Action” that was accepted by the United States at the Fourth World Conference of Women, Beijing, China, September 1995, with full understanding that we are entering a new phase in world history – the Hi-technology/ computerized/robotized Information Highway Revolution, which is changing the way we live and work. It is bringing civilization ever closer to a near-workerless world and is redefining opportunities and responsibilities for millions of people. This new “technological revolution” is creating the end of work and is bringing forth a “New Women’s Movement” internationally, led by victims of poverty – with new hope for a better quality of life, by using technology for human need, not human destruction.

The CAWA Poverty Tack Force recognizes that we now have the technology to end poverty and hunger forever and provide a decent quality of life for all. Only through equal access to this new technology, can any serious solutions to addressing poverty, deprivations and hopelessness of California’s poor women and families begin. We also recognize that technology can help us reverse the systematic, societal trend toward accepting violence against women and children, including abuse in the home, war crimes against civilians, and the feminization of poverty.

Therefore, CAWA, a working assembly to bring the Beijing “Platform for Action” to the grassroots of California, in collaboration with WEAP, has established the Poverty Task Force to empower, educate, and mobilize for action women and youth, especially poor women and their families to assume leadership roles and be in decision making; to work for economic justice and economic development for the eradication of poverty by the year 2000 through redistribution of resources, where all human needs are met, and true democracy and peace prevail, in an environmentally sustainable world. We seek to change economic, societal and political policies that relegate poor women to the bottom of the economic ladder and criminalize poverty because what affects the poorest of our sisters and affects all women.

The CAWA Poverty Task Force also supports Women With Disabilities and Girl Child Rights, which includes the right of disabled women to contribute to our nation’s productivity, with equal opportunities to earn a decent wage doing work that is meaningful and useful; sensitive, reliable health care services; support in fulfilling family responsibilities and taking an active role in family life; resources and support to belong in their homes and neighborhoods, not in institutions or other segregation environments; access to public facilities, choice in areas affecting our lives, to live in safety free of the fear of violence, to have political power and opportunities to develop leadership, to vote, to lobby, to campaign, to organize and to demonstrate.




The State of California is the 7th largest economy in the world, 12% of the U.S. population lives in our state, which has 11% of the national payroll employment, and 13% of the nation’s personal income. Our ports handle 20% of the nation’s imports, 17% of exports, and produces 15% of the nation’s exports.

Economic Justice & Jobs/Training:

California has the 3rd highest rents in the nation. 1/4 of our children are hungry and living in poverty. 39% of children living in poverty come from families with 2 wage earners. More than 9% of our people are jobless, with more than 600,000 jobs permanently lost since May 1990 through downsizing replacement by high-technology/robotization. Hundreds of thousands more jobs are permanently downsized through mega-corporate mergers and base closures within the last 6 years. 10% of the job loss, due to high- tech., will never be replaced. With the passing of NAFTA and GATT, California has seen the exodus of vital manufacturing jobs to Mexico and Southeast Asia for exploitation of a low wage workforce, which is, also, seeing replacement by computers and robots. By the year 2020, according the economist Jeremy Rifkin and others, only 5% of the population will be employable because we are looking at the “end of work”.

Poverty & Health:

Under the leadership of Governor Pete Wilson, California’s ratinghas gone from 1st in the nation to 14th. Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) has been mercilessly cut to 54% below the poverty level. 3/4 of all people on welfare are children. In Alameda County alone homelessness increased 125% after the last welfare cut with women and children becoming the fastest growing section of homeless population. Legislation for further cuts from the Federal and State government, in the form of Block Grants and a 2-year lifetime limit, will soon be implemented. SSI to the blind, disabled, and elderly has also seen cuts, with those disabled because of drug rehab completely denied aid as of January, 1996. Much needed health care has had medical/medicaid reductions, of which the elderly on fixed incomes use 60%. Cuts to healthcare services come through prioritization of the healthcare industry to benefit profit HMO’s, which operate through denial of specialized and emergency services. Millions of low wage employee, underemployed and the elderly have no health care at all. Because of healthcare cuts form the Federal and State Governments, community hospitals are closing down emergency wards and cutting back on services, especially to the uninsured and elderly.

Education, Peace & Human Rights:

Education, from elementary to colleges has seen cuts and tuition raises. Federal Block Grants mean the elimination of public school breakfast and lunch programs, along with the elimination of programs which help to supplement poor education and nutrition like Head Start and WIC.

Federal and State cuts to health, education, and welfare has seen budget cuts turn to budget shifts to fund the building of jails. The California Prison System has been the largest growth industry recently in California, with state funding increasing dramatically since 1980, when $300 million was allocated as compared to $4 billion in 1994. In 1983 prisons received 4% of the budget and schools 14% of the budget, but by 1994 prison spending had more than doubled to 9% of the budget while school spending had decreased by 5% to be only 8% of the budget. California now imprisons more individuals than any other country in the world, with 60% of all incarcerated individuals jailed for non-violent offenses; in essence poverty related crimes of want. California has led the nation with “get tough on crime” hysteria such as the 3 strikes law. The largest women’s jail in the world is housed at Chowchilla. A new women’s prison in Merced is already full and 2 more mass complexes will soon be completed. The amount o women inmates since 1974 has increased by over 200%, with the majority of prosecutions being for drug addiction, domestic violence and welfare fraud, all poverty related “crimes of want”.





especially Low-Income Women (AFDC Mothers, disabled women and girls, women in the workforce & educational institutions, retired & professional women)

Youth :

All ages (elementary-college)


SEIU, Locals 616, 535, 1877…etc., CSEA (educational)


NGOs(Non-profit organizations: i.e. decent affordable housing, job training, quality education, empowerment, health care advocates, rehab advocates, churches, shelters, voter right advocates to run victims of poverty for office)-CBO’s: Community development, Job Corp., PIC, Nurses Organizations, Domestic Violence Organizations.

Media :

(TV, radio, printed media, Information industry agencies like WWW, etc.)

Educational Institutions:

(elected school board members, education and teacher unions, think-tanks, PTA’s, students – elementary to college), women’s Studies Centers, Vocational schools, Schools of Business

Govt. Organizations:

(county social Services Providers, County Health Providers)

Criminal Justice System:

(Public Defenders, Private Attorneys, District Attorneys, Court Services, Probation Services, Prisoner Advocate Groups) Prisoners, Judiciary, Legal Referral Services

State Governments:

(politicians, legislative Committees dealing with poverty and poverty related issues, lobbyists), SSI, Commissions

City Governments:

(elected city officials, Board of supervisors, ad hoc committees dealing with poverty and poverty related issues), Commissions

Private Sector:

(Hi-Tech., Small businesses, small business owners, corporations), Hi-Tech. Scientist (research labs like Berkeley Livermore Lab which build the latest technology and do research involving the future of jobs, healthcare, education, etc… Gay and Lesbian, Bisexual communities





1. Actions to be taken by Legislative Bodies, Regulatory Agencies and other Government Organizations:

1.1 “Living Wages for All Act” needs to be implemented (HR1050). It is umbrella legislation because it encompasses all the other legislation that was written before. This is already introduced. The introduction of legislation should be supported by Rep. Barbara Lee.

1.2 Lobbying: Action to support the introduction of HR 1050 in all our organizations. And introduce our own pieces of legislation, not just the ones that are already introduced. Support whatever actions are possible in the introduction of comprehensive legislation to eradicate poverty.

1.3 Rejection of CCRI.

1.4 Voter Registration & Election involvement: Move through the state of CA as fast as we can before the November 1996 election. Get people involved in anti-poverty work. Use this strategic plan, already established networks, and use the networks with the cross cutting issues in mind.

1.5 Demand that corporations are held accountable: HR 1050 holds corporations accountable on the state level for health, pollution, insurance, not to send jobs overseas, to provide benefits and living wage. They should have to publish a divestiture of all their holdings.

2.Actions to be taken by NGOS andthe Community

2.1 Grassroots organizing: How to organize, from the bottom up, for results, Campaign style of work, forming defense committees for “Eradication of Poverty by Year 2000”

2.2 Speakers Bureau Trainings: framing poverty issues offensively, dispelling myths, lies, stereotypes & scapegoating; economic, social and political education of poverty issues, developing “Plan of Action” to educate the community

2.3 Direct Action Speakouts: breaking isolation on poverty issues, building “New Women’s Movement” with leadership from the bottom, through letter writing campaigns, forming defense committees for victims of poverty demonstrations, marches, locally, statewide and nationally; targeting state and local governments and policy makers, big businesses, etc.

2.4 Leadership Development Trainings: victim leadership, run victims for office campaigns; seeking support and funding from traditional women voter advocates and women’s organizations.

2.5 Media Trainings: to challenge bad image of poor women and their families through media, pubic officials, press releases, talk show guests training; information flyers produced and distributed to communities, NGO’s, educational facilities; regular bulk mailings to build relations and keep public and constituents informed on framing of issues.

2.6 Participation of low-income women at conferences, seminars and panels; writing position papers to be distributed to educational institutions, elected officials, and policy makers.

2.7 Form advocacy groups and collaborations for decent affordable housing, childcare, hi-technology, training and decent paying jobs, quality/affordable healthcare and to stop the criminalization of poverty , legal & community partnerships – “organizing in the courts, the streets, and legislature”

2.8 Form statewide and national “Up and Out of Poverty” Networks to link-up to existing nationwide groups fighting for women and poor people’s rights. Break the isolation on poverty campaign.

2.9 Frame issues offensively. i.e. go after issues of housing, education, and poverty. Fight on these levels instead of going on the defensive i.e. negligent mothers and drug use

2.10 Commit the courage and strength of women to educate towards a new social contract which demands access to information industries and the accountability of those in power to commit to reform at this time of crisis.

2.11 Religious Institutions should make a commitment to eradicating poverty.

2.12 Walking neighborhoods: community outreach door to door

2.13 Visiting schools: holding teachers and schools accountable

2.14 Hold Mothers for Mayor campaigns

2.15 Demand the eradication of the criminalization of women and children.

2.16 Statewide campaign to educate and implement and reinstate the safety net for child care, drug rehabilitation and mental institutions.

2.17 Living wage jobs for all, if the private sector can’t create them, the public needs to.

2.18 End corporate welfare.

2.19 Education: fund and build more colleges and be more inclusive within CA as it grows and changes. Secretary of State of Education is trying to use the funds for prisons by putting it into higher education for all. Train and produce future leaders in every skill area. Education for building a better society (community) should be available and affordable for everyone. This can be part of re-building our infrastructure.

2.20 Campaign for a moratorium on prison building in CA.

2.21 Create incentives for people to give back to the community: € like moms in the schools

€pay off student loans by teaching or working in community organizations € take $ from defense and military and put into education.

2.22 Have representation from poverty and minority communities to rule on polices and regulations. Citizens should have the opportunity to develop the State’s budget.

2.23 Health initiatives should be supported. Health insurance policies and HMOs must include coverage for pre-existing conditions.

2.24 Get the Beijing “Platform of Action” and CAWA in every woman’s hand Make the U.N. documents known statewide and nationwide. Let them know what the government voted on and what these organizations have been working on today.

2.25 Network with women across this nation to build a nationwide anti-poverty campaign.

2.26 Election reform: campaign financing, and campaign spending limits, Elect victims of poverty

3. List of Demands to compliment Action Items:

3.1 Demand that Social Service work with recipients, not against.Help them get off aid responsibly.

3.2 Demand that we give relevant not just job training but career training programs for decent jobs and child care to welfare recipients, and drug treatment on demand.

3.3 Expand on working class loans and let them pay back by community service.

3.4 Demand free education as long as you want to go. Education as a right.

3.5 Stop Limitations on disabled income i.e. people with disabilities are living together to save money. The ceiling should be removed that restrict marriages between people who are receiving federal aid.

3.6 Demand more schools and universities instead of jails

3.7 Demand: identify, challenge, and educate others about all obstacles to democracy

3.8 Demand that Fair Political Practices Act be revamped.




On Indigenous Women’s Issues, we agreed that the government must acknowledge the rights of indigenous women to control their land and resources. We also approved adopting in its entirety quote on page 25 of UN Platform for Action and page 23 section 55)

On Gay and Lesbian Issues, we agreed ll people should be equal regardless of sexual orientation. But because US society continues to discriminate against people who are seen as different gays and lesbians need the full entitlements as heterosexuals; including but not limited to:

  • Job security and coming out at work
  • Full entitlements
  • End to gay bashing
  • Address the double discrimination faced by lesbians of color

Adopted by the Poverty Task Force of the California Women’s Agenda Assembly on June 29, 1996


Download the entire CAWA Report.