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James M. Fenwick

Off Limits

(9 September 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 36, 9 September 1946, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the ETOL.

General Omar Bradley who, according to the New York Times, “long since has established his reputation as one of the hardest-headed and sympathetic friends of the veteran” recently stated that abuses of the on-the-job-training provisions of the GI Bill of Rights constituted a national scandal.

There is a scandal, all right, but it does not center around those few individuals in the more comfortable income brackets who have sought to take advantage of the job-training program while holding down very cushy jobs. The scandal lies in the recent sandbagging given by Congress to some 300,000 veterans in the job-training program. The scandal lies in Bradley himself with his generalizations which he is so fond of making.

Congress Runs True to Form

Congress wasted no time in picking up the cue given by Bradley. After effortlessly passing the largest peacetime military budget in history, they raised their own salaries from $10,000 to $12,500 a year – plus $2,500 for expenses – and in the last days of the session got down to business and chopped one of the. reasonably good portions of the GI Bill of Rights to bits.

One week after the bill’s introduction into the Senate, and without a single hearing being held on it, the bill was on Truman's desk. Flashing That Old Prudential Smile, Truman quickly signed the bill and then, weighted down by the cares of office, Boss Pendergast’s boy took off for the fair Bermudas.

It didn’t take veterans long to find out what had been done to them.

Nothing’s Too Good for the Veterans

It would seem that NOTHING is almost too good for the veteran. Under the amended GI Bill of Rights, ceilings of $175 per month for single veterans and $200 a month for married ones are imposed for the period of training. This figure includes the government subsistence grant as well as the worker’s wages.

The Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union immediately pointed out that this “represents wage cuts ranging from $25 to $50 a month to trainees in the industry.” With the current inflated prices, the difficulties of living on the resulting income are obvious.

Further, subsistence grants will not be paid on programs which last longer than two years: The normal apprenticeship in most trades, of course, runs longer than two years. In the printing industry it is six.

Hardship has been accentuated because in many cases veterans have made commitments on the assumption that the original provisions of the bill were to prevail. Now they find themselves with homes partly bought, furniture unpaid for, babies begun – and a very unpromising future confronting them.

A Few Conclusions

If the revised rates for the on-the-job-training program continue it will mean the effective destruction of the program. If the new rates remain, the whole program will turn into a source of cheap labor for industry. The new rates will also serve as a depressant on current union scales.

The only real solution is union control of the on-the-job-training program, just as unions in many trades now control the conditions of apprenticeship.

It would not be difficult for any union to devise a program which would guarantee a living wage, provide for a full apprenticeship program, forestall veterans from being used as a pool of cheap labor, and prevent the veteran from being pitted against the organized worker.

If there is to be a better post-war world it will be hewn out by labor and not by the creatures of capital like Bradley, the United States Congress and ... what’s his name? – Truman.

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