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Arthur I. Preis

Grafters Shown Up by League

United Front of Leagues and Councils Force Investigation

Demand 60¢ an Hour

11 Arrests Made in Militant Strike Since August 1

(15 September 1933)

From Labor Action, Vol. 1 No. 10, 15 September 1933, pp. 1 & 2..
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Toledo, Ohio – A complete exposure of the graft In the administration of poor relief and the criminal inadequacy of the commissary system of relief in Toledo and Lucas County has been achieved through a militant strike of relief workers carried on since Aug. 1 in the face of 41 arrests, police terror, intimidation and an attempt to starve out strikers and their families.

A united front of relief workers, led by the Unemployed Leagues and Unemployed Councils compelled a state Investigation of the local relief administration which revealed that at least $500,000 of federal relief funds have been “wasted” in the past 12 months by the Toledo officials while they were boasting of having the cheapest relief cost in the whole country, 6.2¢ worth of food per day per person!

Relief Administration Broken Down

The entire corrupt and incompetent city and county relief administration has broken down under the pressure of mass action by the unemployed and Governor White has been compelled to send a special relief dictator, Col. John Shetler, fresh from the mine strikes in Eastern Ohio, to assume full control of the relief administration in Lucas County.

All five members of the recently appointed Lucas County Relief Commission have resigned under fire. Robert Browne, editor of the Scripps-Howard News-Bee, was the first to resign, three weeks after he had refused to do so on the direct demand of the Lucas County Unemployed Leagues. The News-Bee carried reactionary and distorted stories about the relief strike because Alfred B. Koch, head of La Salle and Koch’s department store, the largest advertiser in Toledo, was chairman of the relief commission. Koch, who was selling clothing and shoe supplies to the Welfare Department, definitely set the relief policy in the county.

A Health Menace

Charges placed before Governor White and the State Relief Commission by the League show that 60,000 to 75,000 people in Toledo have been existing for nearly two years on a fixed diet that is less than the “irreducible minimum emergency relief diet” established by the Children’s Health Bureau of the U.S. Department of Labor. Of the 30 items per week supposed to be contained in Toledo’s food allowance, six to eight items have been regularly omitted, and the amounts gradually reduced!

All the relief food is packed by hand, no sanitary or health examinations or regulations for the unemployed working in the food stations are maintained or required. The first case of sleeping sickness appeared August 30 in Toledo. The commissary system constitutes a dangerous epidemic menace to the entire population of Toledo and vicinity and the organized unemployed demand its immediate liquidation.

Leaders Arrested

Picketing of the Central Relief Warehouse has continued for the past five weeks. Mass arrests of leaders prior to the strike failed to break the strike. Ted Selander of the Leagues was released on a personal bond under the usual frame-up charge of “inciting to riot” after being arrested without a warrant, with no charges being preferred against him and being held incommunicado in the county jail by Sheriff Dave Kreiger for three days. Sam Sponseller. executive committeeman of the National Unemployed League, was arrested while leading a group of pickets and was released under bond.

An attempt to smash the strike by refusing relief to strikers’ families was met with a militant demonstration of strikers at the Social Service Federation, where all relief is authorized, and compelled the officials to grant relief orders to strikers’ families.

Although Col. Shetler told representatives of the Leagues that he opposed the commissary system and that he was going to investigate conditions thoroughly, he stated that he would decide which system to keep on the basis of cost Said Shetler, “I don’t know as yet whether I will liquidate the commissary system, it all depends on the cost in dollars and cents.” “How about the cost in human life?” was the reply of the League representatives, who were answered by a blank stare.

Forced Labor

A definite threat to starve out the strikers was made by the new relief “czar” when he told the committee that “those who won’t work for this relief don’t eat.” When the committee pointed out that the strike was not a refusal to work, but a refusal to work under certain degrading conditions and for starvation payments in kind, the Colonel said they would not eat regardless, even if he had to set up special soup kitchens for the women and children “This is an emergency situation,” he stated, “and they must work for what they get.”

“Why put the burden on the unemployed by making them give everything they have, their labor? Why not make the rich give what they have, their surplus, by taxing it away from them. They too should help in this ‘emergency’,” the committee replied.

The Colonel looked shocked and grumbled, “Isn’t that communism, isn’t that what they have in ‘Roosia’? We can’t do that.”

“You can call it what you like,” said one of the unemployed representatives, “we call it simple justice anywhere on the globe.”

The unemployed have voted to continue the strike, which is growing stronger constantly. They mean to fight until the commissary system is completely smashed, and 60¢ per hour in cash is paid for relief work Say the unemployed league members:

“They’re not going to balance books with human lives any longer. We’ll fight until the job is done. We’ve had promises galore before, but we can’t live on promises. We know now that the public officials from the dog-catchers to the Governor only move when we show our teeth. We refuse to go through another winter like the last one.”

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