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January 8th marks the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty.

On that date in 1964, President Lyndon Johnson outlined his concept in the State of the Union address. Among other things, the speech before a joint session of Congress and the nation included such legislative initiatives such as Medicare, increases to Social Security and food aid to families, all of which have come under attack during the recent congressional budget battles.

The War on Poverty has special meaning to the MTD-affiliated American Federation of State, Municipal and County Employees (AFSCME). These members are among the many workers who have administered the programs associated with Johnson’s call for economic justice. The union is collecting anecdotes its members on how they have been performing their duties and what the War on Poverty means to them.

In many ways, the War on Poverty remains as critically important as it ever was. As one writer recently noted the address and the subsequent 1964 Economic Report of the President offered eleven goals: These goals include maintaining high employment, accelerating economic growth, fighting discrimination, improving regional economies, rehabilitating urban and rural communities, improving labor markets, expanding educational opportunities, enlarging opportunities for youth, improving the Nation’s health, promoting adult education and training, and assisting the aged and disabled.”

To date, organized labor continues to work with the government and others to address and achieve the goals laid out a half-century ago.