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Emanuel Garrett

Organize Committees to Push Prices Down!

(4 November 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 44, 4 November 1946, pp. 1 & 7.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

The price picture is well enough known to every one of us. It reduces itself to the simple fact that wages cannot possibly be. stretched to meet the price greed of the profiteers. What to do, then, is the principal question that faces us today.

Now, there are many things we can do. We can, for example, put forward through our unions the basic slogan of last winter’s General Motors strike: Wage Increases WITHOUT Any Price Increases.

As a story from Detroit that appears elsewhere in this issue demonstrates, the slogan is spreading though there is not yet any aggressive union campaign to put it into effect. However, it is the kind of realistic and fundamental approach to the problem that is certain to rise in the big wage struggles that lie ahead because of its incontestable logic.

Further, there is the entire wage campaign that is now shaping up. The auto workers are already on the move; the steel workers and others are certain to take action as their contracts expire. We will, however, have to be on guard against permitting the same steal that was put over on us last year when labor’s picket line wage victories were stolen through price boosts granted in Washington.

Many Ways to Fight

More than that, however, with the many lessons of the price situation staring us in the face, we will have to seek ways to give our wage battles real value. The GM Program is one. An escalator clause in every contract is another – and a number of unions have already acted to include that in their programs.

Thus, we say that the first way to tackle the price situation is on the wage front. But the fight against higher prices does not end there. It must be fought in many ways, from the simple economic action of a wage demand to the rounded political action of a Labor Party massing labor’s political strength against the government operated by the servants of the meat monopolists, steel magnates, and so forth.

Here we want to discuss one of these avenues of action – popular price control, committees, composed of housewives and labor representatives. Combined with the economic and political activities of our unions, this type of action can really crack the price swindle. It is, further, something that can be put into operation in a minimum of time.

Seattle as an Example

Thus in this issue of Labor Action you will read how a group of housewives in Seattle got together, solicited and received the support of unions, and made their plans to beat down the robbery of inflated prices.

The same thing can be duplicated as easily in every neighborhood, in every community. A few housewives get together and make their plans in cooperation with union representatives.

The Seattle committee is designed particularly to fight the rise in the price of milk. And it is only in the initial stages of its work. However, think of it in your own neighborhood. You organize a price control committee. You visit the small retailer and the big dealer. You check on their prices. You let them know your intentions and demands, and plan your work according, to what test meets the needs of the local situation. Perhaps you organize a buyers’ strike to force the price down on certain commodities. You give publicity to chisellers, picket stores, demand that prices be towered, ferret out crooks and stock hoarders.

Poorly organized, sporadic buyers’ strikes have already had their effect on prices in notable instances. How much more effective will be a planned campaign of popular price control committees. We do not enter into all the details, because they will suggest themselves in every locality.

In the Unions, Too

Yet, by themselves these committees cannot do the whole job. But they can go a long way in the necessary direction. Conferences can be called to coordinate the activities of the committees on a city scale, and with the cooperation of our unions, on. a national scale.

And we must raise the question in our unions of establishing price control committees, to cooperate with the neighborhood committees and plan wage-price action directly through the union. These committees can publicize the facts on prices and profits, as the General Motors strike did so splendidly last year. Working within the structure of a general union campaign to Open the Books of the corporations and to force higher wages out of the profiteers without permitting price increases in the products, they produce, giving the neighborhood committees the backing of organized labor’s strength, these committees can rout the price swindlers in industry and government ...

We are faced with a battle between the tiny handful of capitalists and their government apparatus on the one side, and the great mass of people on the other. The capitalists are organized to act. Witness how they callously imposed a meat famine on the country to have their way.

They must be answered with action by the people, particularly with action by labor, which speaks for the interests of the people as a whole, is powerfully organized and can take the lead.


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