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Susan Green

Of Special Interest to Women

(10 September 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 37, 10 September 1945, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Seven and a half million women joined the working force of this country during the war, raising the number of women workers from the pre-war 11,000,000 to 18,500,000. What is happening to these women workers now that they are no longer wanted to drive buses, make ammunition, fashion scientific instruments, build airplanes and other wartime goods?

These women did not flock into war jobs as a patriotic gesture. The fact is that eighty-five per cent of working women today support themselves and one or more dependents. Before the war the women who were the SOLE breadwinners of their families numbered nearly three million. The war with its long list of dead, maimed and crippled fathers, husbands and sons has put an economic burden on more women. Women know, above all else, that when the pantry is bare and the icebox empty, the kitchen is not the place for them to be.

The economic compulsion of women to stay in industry is reflected in surveys taken to ascertain the working woman’s own opinion. In New York State, on the West Coast, in the Detroit area, working women have overwhelmingly expressed their need to continue on their jobs and, earn a living in the post-war period. In the United Auto Workers, CIO, eighty-five per cent of the women members, want, to stay at work.

Women and Unemployment

How to get security against unemployment and how actually to get jobs for all who want to work is an issue of burning interest to working women, more especially so because they are the first laid off; or, if not laid off, their inexperience is exploited by the employers, who threaten to fire them unless they accept lower wages or worse conditions.

The Workers Party has a program for working women. It is the reconversion and post-war program the Workers Party urges all workers to support. Here are its outstanding points:

First and foremost the working people must assured food, clothing and shelter by a guaranteed annual wage. A guaranteed annual wage of$2,500 or around $50 a week for each worker, man or woman, is today a minimum.

Does this sum look unattainable to women workers? Perhaps it does to women on slave wages of less than eighteen cents an hour,less than thirty cents an hour, less than fifty cents an hour, less than sixty cents an hour, less than sixty-five cents an hour. But women must not be bound by their degree of exploitation. A country rich enough to burn up three hundred billion dollars in three and a half years of bloody, devastating war is rich enough to pay its workers, men and women, a guaranteed annual wage of $2,500, so they can at all times buy the necessities of life. That much security every worker is entitled to and must have.

But how about jobs? Workers want to work for their wages. They want to be able to earn more than the guaranteed minimum, at work they can do.

Therefore, the demand of the Workers Party for a thirty-hour work week – at the same weekly wage – is fair beyond question. Let every working woman who is today getting her walking papers, consider the rank unfairness of keeping the forty-hour week whereby the employers are getting at least thirteen hours more productivity out of each worker employed, while other workers are hitting the pavements – out of jobs.

Government Operation of Plants

Today thirteen billion dollars in government plants – paid for by taxpayers’ money, paid for by workers, including millions of women workers – are being turned over to big business for a song. This must be stopped. Government plants must be kept as public property to provide jobs for workers and goods for consumption. But that is not enough.

All the war industries, all the great monopolies, the transportation systems, and all major industries on which the life of the nation depends, should be nationalized, should be made public property, and placed under the management of committees of workers,including women workers. This is the only way to insure that these industries will he kept running to provide jobs for workers and the things of life for the people. The terrible paradox of unemployed men and women and idle plants must not be allowed.

Th standard of living of the working people must be raised. A minimum annual income of $5,000 for a working class family is as easy for American industry as rolling off a log. Before the war only eleven per cent of the population, were able to buy the products advertised in American magazines. In 1940 thirty-eight per cent of the nation’s city families were living below a bare maintenance level. Let the industries of the country run at full capacity to abolish poverty.

Public Works Aid Women

The Workers Party demands a flat two hundred and fifty billion dollar program for the next five years. For destruction and death three hundred billion dollars was consumed in three and a half years. Is it too much to ask that two hundred and fifty billion dollars be spent in five years for housing, public works, rural electrification and other crying public needs?

Women would benefit especially by this program. It would mean not only a real tackling of the housing problem. It would mean also building day nurseries for the children of working mothers and after-school playgrounds for older children. It would mean all that and much more to every working class family and would provide jobs for workers, men and women alike.

If the above points of the Workers Party program for security against unemployment and for jobs for all, have interested the women readers of Labor Action, we hope they will go further and learn how to get these things. They will want to know that the rich will have to be taxed to pay for this program – not the poor.

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Last updated: 16 December 2017