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George Breitman

Newark’s Relief System Exposed

After Driving Workers’ Organizations
Out of Stations, City Slashed Relief Budgets

(5 April 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 14, 5 April 1941, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

NEWARK, N.J. – Two years ago this month the Newark relief administration succeeded in putting, through the plan it had been working on so long – the barring of unemployed organizations from the relief stations of the city.

But with the passage of the ruling that “every relief client must speak for himself,” the Franklin-Malady relief administration began a series of cuts which have reduced the rolls to half the number, of two years ago, and wiped out every one of the gains won in the eight years previous to that.

Relief Today

The period of waiting after application for relief is now from three to four weeks, often more, where previously it was a week or so. The special “emergency check” is now a thing of the past.

Special diets, which were granted on any doctor’s recommendation, thus providing more food for sick people, are granted in only 1% of the cases which had them previously. No longer is the recommendation of any doctor sufficient: only a city doctor’s word is good enough now.

Where previously as much as a quart of milk was allowed for children below 12 years of age, today half-a-quart is considered quite sufficient by relief officials. Relief granted to strikers was always of great help to unions of newly organized workers with little finances to run their strikes. Today strikers are not allowed relief.

Condemned to Freeze

In 1939, the department began to issue coal for the winter season in October. In 1940, “money was saved” by not issuing the coal until the middle of December. During this period a wave of influenza and pneumonia cases reached almost the proportions of an epidemic in the workers’ neighborhoods.

Previously, by exerting a lot of pressure a relief client could get an order for clothing that could be cashed in a clothing stored Now this has been done away with. Relief clients get only clothing made on the WPA projects, and extremely little of that. In 1940 less than 1c per day per person was spent by the city on clothing. The 1941 budget calls for about the same figure.

But the best example of all of how Newark relief is conducted, now that the unemployed unions are locked out, is the recent ruling on rental allowances. In 1939 they were as follows: $15 a month for families of six or less, and up to $20 a month in certain cases of larger families. Gradually this was cut down so that single people received only $12 a month, and small families received even less than $15.

Suddenly last month the following policy was announced in a newspaper announcement headed: “Relief Clients’ Landlords May Get Increased Rents”:

Families of one or two were to receive a maximum of $9 a month, families of three and four to receive maximum of $10.50 and $13.50. But families of over five would receive more than $15. This was the “increase” talked about.

The Way Out

The key to the relief problem does not lie in the promises made by the politicians prior to elections. Franklin, self-proclaimed “champion of the underprivileged” will be able to do everything he wants, as long as the unemployed are not organized into unions that are recognized and have the right to bargain for their members.

That is why in this election we say to the unemployed that what they must fight for is recognition of their committees. The present administration, in spite of its claims that it is “fair to labor,” has shown that it is not fair to unions of the unemployed. That is why we say that the workers need a City Commission controlled by and responsible to the workers, which will recognize this right and open up the way to an improvement in relief standards.

LET LABOR CONTROL THE CITY COMMISSION! Build a labor party and elect a City Commission that is pledged, among other things, to recognition of the unemployed unions!

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Last updated: 2 November 2015