KWRUKensington Welfare Rights Union
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When it became clear that guaranteed aid to the poor would soon be a memory and organized opposition was nowhere to be found, KWRU saw an opportunity for channeling pain and isolation into just such collective action.
As KWRU's education director, Willie Baptist, observes, "If you look at historic movements of poor people, they were about more than the question of satisfying people's immediate needs.
KWRU's tour served as a human rights school on wheels, focusing on three of the Declaration's provisions: Article 23, which calls for "remuneration ensuring ...
With so many troubles and so few answers, people took note when KWRU rolled into town spreading the word that the United Nations itself has proclaimed that America's treatment of the poor violates basic principles of human dignity.
Though it invokes international law, KWRU's campaign is intended to work on the streets, not in the courtroom.
KWRU member Mariluz Gonzalez says she regularly gets cursed at when she speaks out about her experiences on welfare.
There's a delicate balance to be struck between KWRU's commitment to collective action and the mainstream media's insistence on stories about lone individuals, which the group grudgingly accommodates.
For that matter, she compares KWRU's unlawful activities, including housing takeovers, tapping into electric power lines and petty theft of various kinds, to the civil disobedience of the Underground Railroad.
Accused by the Philadelphia Inquirer of "homeless hype" and effectively blacked out by the daily papers, KWRU is perpetually caught between trying to create media happenings to make poverty visible and insuring that the people who hook up with the group at welfare offices and rallies stay committed.
More than a few members were already familiar with KWRU from the local TV news before they ever met one of its volunteer organizers.
KWRU, which has no salaried staff, is governed by a "War Council" of eight to ten elected members.
Through membership in the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees, KWRU is affiliated with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.