Scott Walker directly appeals to Trump to let him drug test people who need food stamps

Bryce Covert

Bryce Covert Economic Policy Editor, Think Progress

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), who campaigned for President-elect Donald Trump during his presidential run, has sent his ally a public letter asking him to pave the way for drug testing food stamps recipients before Trump has even assumed office.

“We want your help as soon as possible,” Walker wrote, before outlining specific demands, the first of which is the ability to screen and test people who need food stamps for drug use.

While states have broad authority to change the requirements for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families cash welfare program, and thus 10 states have chosen to drug test applicants and recipients and deny those who refuse the tests or fail them, they currently have no such latitude over the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps.

But that hasn’t stopped Walker from signing a measure into law that would drug test SNAP applicants and recipients and then suing the federal government to allow him to carry it out. He’s also asked Congress to pass legislation that would give him the permission he seeks, but a bill put forward to do so failed.

Walker appears to believe, however, that the Trump administration will grant him what he’s looking for. “We…are optimistic your administration will give states like Wisconsin the flexibility to provide the accountability the taxpayers demand,” he wrote in the section requesting the authority to implement drug testing.

While Walker characterized drug testing as “helping the residents of Wisconsin,” evidence from the states that drug test welfare benefits doesn’t make that seem likely. The drug tests come at taxpayer expense, and so far have totaled nearly $2 million in the states that have active regimes. Proponents have claimed that the cost gets offset by the savings in benefits denied to drug users, yet tests are showing up very few positive results — in 2015, two states uncovered exactly zero.

Walker and others in favor of these programs have also claimed that they help make people ready for work and erase the “barriers to employment related to substance abuse,” as he put it in his letter. But that would require giving those with drug use problems treatment and help overcoming addiction. In at least one state, none of the people kicked off of welfare have gotten treatment. Most state laws don’t include any extra money or resources for programs, and many are so full that they can’t take new patients.

As a candidate, Trump didn’t weigh in on the issue of whether to drug test the poor who need public benefits, although he did call for he and Democratic rival Hillary Clinton to take a test before a debate. He also called for increased treatment for drug addiction. It’s yet to be seen if and how Trump will respond to Walker’s demands.

Bryce Covert is the Economic Policy Editor for ThinkProgress. She was previously editor of the Roosevelt Institute’s Next New Deal blog and a senior communications officer. She is also a contributor for The Nation and was previously a contributor for ForbesWoman. Her writing has appeared on The New York Times, The New York Daily News, The Nation, The Atlantic, The American Prospect, and others. She is also a board member of WAM!NYC, the New York Chapter of Women, Action & the Media. Follow her on Twitter @brycecovert

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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