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Wage Cut for Federal Gov’t Workers

(June 1932)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 26 (Whole No. 122), 25 June 1932, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The salaries of the Federal civil service employees have come under the knife. As part of the general wage cutting drive and the campaign for cheaper government, $12,000,000 has been slashed from the wages of the federal workers at one fell stroke by the U.S. Congress. After weeks of anxious deliberation the legislators summoned up enough courage to put through the wage cut, under the trick name of the “furlough bill.” Like the bonus veterans the civil service workers crowded every space in the chambers and galleries of the senate to watch their trusted representatives apply the axe to their payroll.

They were watching a little show which is the first act of unseating the government employees from their throne of privilege. The strongholds of the labor aristocracy are being broken down with unrelenting consistency. First the skilled workers who managed to escape the ruthless advance of the new machine inventions, were caught in the wage cut drive that was the reward for their docility, class collaborationism, and business union ventures during the period of “prosperity”. And now civil service workers are getting their compensation for their patient service to the capitalist government in the form of slashes in their envelope. The road is being cleared for a unified and homogeneous working class movement that will cut across all the traditional prejudices and strata of the proletariat.

While the current economic crisis means no good for the workers in a material way it is a veritable boon for the capitalist masters. The ruling class not only takes advantage of the huge unemployed army to scale down the standard of living but to put the screws to their henchmen who run the government for them. They want cheaper and more efficient government. The time is over, they say, when they can afford to squander money on their lackeys. The leading imperialist government of the world, with a battle on its hands for markets and colonies and a discontented working class which must be held in check, needs a bureaucracy which will do its work efficiently – on rations. During the last few years preceding the crisis the expenditures and corruption of the federal gov’t ran the treasury into a deficit of several hundreds of millions of dollars. This must be made up somehow. Certainly, the Wall Street magnates do not intend to pay for this out of their own profits. After squeezing the petty bourgeoisie dry in the stock crash they milked what remained of their rapidly vanishing wealth by the imposition of a heavy load of new taxes. But this is not enough. Consequently the white collar slaves came in for a well rounded trimming.

The bill reducing the wages of the government employees is an interesting commentary on the hypocrisy the capitalist lickspittles, of the republican and democratic parties alike, peddle off in the name of philanthropy. The very name of the bill is indisputable proof of this.

It is called the “Furlough Plan”. This means that instead of an outright and brazen wage cut, the federal employees are given a month’s vacation during the year – without pay, of course. It is reasoned, we suppose, that since all the workers, nowadays are on a more or less permanent holiday there is no ground to discriminate against the Washington office workers. The bill is so calculated as to put all those earning slightly more than $1,000 per annum on the five day week with a corresponding reduction of pay, and on enough vacations to bring their salaries down to the one thousand mark. The bill even reaches out to the countryside to hit the rural mail carriers for an 81/3% cut and a one-eighth cut on their allowance for vehicles. This measure will no doubt, do its bit to remove these people from the “idiocy of rural life.” It will help to make this backward section of the working class more class conscious.

Another hypocritical gesture of the bill is the 15 percent reduction made in the huge salary of the vice-president (evidently the value of Curtis’s sleeping performances have declined in the crisis deflation), and the 10 per cent cut in the $10,000 salaries of the congressmen. Who can say our legislators are not self-sacrificing?

The unmistakable identity of the republicans and democrats is shown by their attitude towards the civil service workers. Only the republicans were more “radical” in this instance. The democrats wanted an outright cut in wages while the G.O.P. preferred to camouflage the cut with the “furlough plan”. The republicans were the stronger, so the democrats compromised and helped the former trim the office workers.

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Last updated: 25.6.2013