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Mary Bell

Is $25 a Week Adequate Benefit?

(June 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 23, 4 June 1945, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

President Truman’s Proposal: A MAXIMUM of $25 a week for all workers for twenty-six weeks.
Workers Party Proposal: A MINIMUM of $30 a week for single men and women for the duration of the period of unemployment.

On May 28, President Truman requested of Congress emergency legislation extending the present coverage of unemployment benefits and increasing the maximum payment to $25 a week.

This is late recognition of the fact that NOTHING has been done for the workers who have toiled, fought and borne the cost of the war.

Congress and Business

Not so with big business. Congress guaranteed the profits before they took the “risk” of converting to war production. That was in the period of “priorities unemployment” when the workers walked the streets, haunted employment agencies and suffered below subsistence living. The war assured business undreamed of profits. And Congress again guaranteed its post-war profits through refunds out of the excess profits taxes.

The workers have gotten the wage freeze, job freeze, high taxes, a rising cost of living, deductions for war bonds, etc. They are going to be more than a little fed up when they go on the dole, whose present maximum is from $16 to $18 a week.

President Truman is belatedly recognizing this fact – when cutback unemployment is already throwing thousands out of work.

But $25 a week is the minimum on which a single person can live and receive the minimum necessities of life. Twenty-five dollars a week for a family of any size means a substandard of existence! If you multiply the present benefits of $16 a week by the rise in the cost of living (45.3 per cent – CIO figure) the result is about $25 a week. In other words, the President’s proposal, aside from extending the workers covered, does no more than compensate for the increase in the cost of living. And this is the MAXIMUM!

Only Decent Proposal

The Workers Party proposal for unemployment insurance to all workers for whom government and industry do not find jobs, beginning with $30 a week for single men and women, is the only proposal that will guarantee a decent standard of living to those who have toiled and are now being arbitrarily tossed out of their jobs.

This is only a beginning for labor. It should also fight for the incorporation into its union contracts of a clause calling for the absorption of workers thrown into unemployment in the re-conversion period by a reduction of the work-week with no reduction in weekly take-home pay. It has to proceed to the guarantee of a year-around job, a minimum of $2,500 annual wage to each worker, and a rising standard of living by means of government planning to assure a $5,000 annual income to all workers’ families, together with a thirty-hour maximum work week.

All these things are within labor’s grasp. It is the biggest, mightiest organized force in the country. All that is necessary is that it rise up on its feet, repudiate the supine policies of its leadership, such as the no-strike pledge and the support of capitalist candidates who refused last year to give labor $25 a week unemployment benefits but guaranteed the billions to big business!

(And it ought to be noted that one of the houses of Congress just voted itself $2,500 a year “pin money” in addition to present salaries of $10,000. This is only four times the maximum unemployment compensation a worker could obtain in a year!)

Labor must get back on the high road of independent class action and form an independent class party of labor!

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Last updated: 10 June 2016