Art Preis Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Art Preis

Mass Lay-Offs, Pay Cuts Announced

Wage Freeze to Continue While Prices Are Boosted

Government Officials Disclose Hunger Plans
for Workers, Huge Hand-Outs for Profiteers

(19 May 1945)

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 20, 19 May 1945, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

A partial picture of the ominous future awaiting the American workers and returning veterans was presented last week in a series of official actions and pronouncements by leading agencies and spokesmen of the Truman administration.

Its essential features include growing mass unemployment, wage slashing, increased shortages particularly in food, price rises and a continuation of the wage-freezing Little Steel formula.

At the same time, the government intends to continue its wartime restrictions on the independent actions of the unions. It will attempt to enforce the no-strike policy in all industries, whether or not they are on war production. It will continue to impose government regulation of collective bargaining through the employer-dominated War Labor Board and compulsory arbitration.

The profit-bloated corporations face an altogether different prospect. The government has given them substantial assurances that their profit and monopoly interests will be fully safeguarded. Within the next two years, the war profiteers are to be reimbursed with almost $8 billion in various types of tax rebates.

Price ceilings are to be fixed during the “reconversion” period to guarantee manufacturers not less than the abnormally inflated prices of 1942, the third war year. They are assured further price increases where “necessary.” These are the initial measures planned for the “relief of the greedy.”

The general features of the administration’s plans and prospects for the next year are embodied in a report prepared for Truman by War Mobilization and Reconversion Director Vinson and released on May 9. Vinson, who is now referred to as the “Assistant President,” outlined what was described by the N.Y. Times as a “Spartan regimen” for the American people.

He admitted that there are already one million unemployed and that there will be some 6,500,000 workers and war veterans seeking jobs during the next 12 months. However, he expressed the hope that many of these would be out of work “only temporarily” and thought that the unemployed “should not exceed” two to two and one-half millions at the end of 12 months.

Unemployment Forecasts

Vinson based these unemployment estimates on his extremely conservative forecast of a one- third cut-back in war production during the next year. Actually, as the May 5 Business Week reveals: “Washington talks publicly of a 35 per cent cutback in munitions, privately of 50 per cent.” It adds: “Maximum foreseeable unemployment is about 5,000,000.”

How will these unemployed survive? Vinson points to state unemployment insurance with “maximum payments” of from $15 to $22 a week. For the unemployed veterans, he pointed to maximum allowances up to $20 a week – equivalent to $10 in prewar purchasing power.

Two days after Vinson offered the prospect of this starvation handout, the U.S. Employment Service revealed that government officials are “puzzled” over the rapid rise in unemployed veterans. These already numbered 28,992 on April 28 – before the official end of the European war. About 2,000,000 more are to be returned home in the next year.

Shortages, the basis for price inflation and black marketeering, are to increase. Vinson admits there will be “no early improvement in the civilian food suuply.” On the contrary, total food supplies will be 5 to 10 per cent less next year, while military requirements will be 5 to 10 per cent greater. In general, there will be no great increase in civilian goods production.

The Vinson report nevertheless opposed the “removal of wage controls,” while admitting that “wages are likely to be forced downward rather than upward” and that “it will not be possible to assure every worker that his take-home pay will remain unchanged.” There will be an increasing return to the 40 hour week, elimination of overtime pay and a general drastic reduction of weekly wages.

On May 10, the day following Vinson’s report, the WLB followed up with a pronouncement indicating how this policy of wage slashing is to be maintained. WEB Chairman Taylor stated at a news conference that the government intends to shackle the workers with the no-strike pledge until the end of the war with Japan and that it “covers all plants” whether producing war goods or civilian.

Preis Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 5 November 2018