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The National Welfare Rights Organization (NWRO)
The NWRO evolved from several different advocacy efforts in the 1960s. One was the organization of welfare recipients in the Watts section of Los Angeles in 1963 by Mrs. Johnnie Tilmon. The second was a strategy outlined in a May 2, 1966 article in The Nation by two Columbia University professors of social work: Frances Fox Piven and Richard Cloward whereby welfare recipients could demand so much from agencies as to immobilize the welfare system. The third influence was the decision of Dr. George Wiley, a civil rights activist, to join forces and support a group of activists who planned a 155-mile march by welfare recipients and their supporters from Cleveland, Ohio and arriving in the state capitol, Columbus, on June 30, 1966. Dr. Wiley, on hearing of the planned march, organized rallies in twenty other cities.
Buoyed by the successful demonstrations, in August 1966, one hundred representatives from seventy-five welfare rights organizations in twenty-three cities met in Chicago and created the National Coordinating Committee of Welfare Rights Groups. This group selected Dr. Wiley as its director. With the assistance of representatives from civil rights groups, labor organizations, church and social work groups, NWRO soon became the national voice for welfare clients’ rights. The NWRO used confrontational techniques, legal action, lobbying and boycotts to advance or protect welfare clients’ rights. The NWRO fell on bad times in the early 1970s after Dr. Wiley announced his resignation. The organization closed its office and was disbanded in early 1975.