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Susan Green

Of Special Interest to Women

(27 July 1942)

From Labor Action, Vol. 6 No. 30, 27 July 1942, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

“The deterioration of quality which was predicted as a concomitant of price ceilings has started and by January will have become acute.”

Thus matter-of-factly does W.J. Enright inform readers of the New York Times of this expected development of still another device for raising prices.

The ways in which deterioration will show itself are many. For instance, colors will not be as fast as they used to be. Cut and finish will be inferior. In the cheaper priced lines, pre-shrinking of materials will be discontinued – bringing grief to every housewife.

The percentage of wool in winter clothing will be reduced. Cotton or rayon will be substituted, so that warmth – the essential of winter clothing – will be absent.

Heaven alone knows what will go into women’s shoes. For men’s and boys’ shoes much less leather will be used; and soles will be much thinner. Durability, of course, will be shortened.

With a little imagination you can see that there is practically no limit to the methods by which goods can be given less value by lowering the quality – and you can bet your last dollar that all the methods will be used! THE CRUX OF THE MATTER IS THAT PRICE CEILINGS WILL BE MAINTAINED ON THE INFERIOR GOODS. THE HOUSEWIFE WILL PAY THE SAME – IF NOT MORE – FOR THE JUNK AS SHE DID FOR THE BETTER MERCHANDISE.

The gag about war shortages explains nothing but the desire of the capitalists to make money out of the war. For – given the shortages – the cheaper goods still cost the manufacturer less than the better goods.

Price ceilings have, therefore, become the vehicle whereby the class that thrives on war gets rich by charging high prices for cheap goods!

Why does the worker-consumer, the working class housewife, allow the scandalous robbery to be perpetrated!

Perhaps one reason is that those women of the working class who are in a position – by their organizational experience – to give leadership to the mass of unorganized housewives, are allowing themselves to be led about by the nose? This was unfortunately the case at the conference held last week at West Park, N.Y., by regional delegates from women’s auxiliaries of trade unions.

The conference started off on the wrong foot by giving a vote of confidence to the OPA. What a shame for working class women to back up Leon Henderson – who raises the ceiling on essential foods while firing broadsides at the workers’ demands for higher wages TO MEET THE PRICES HE HIMSELF BOOSTS!

The conference wound up with a program to place women from trade union auxiliaries on war price and rationing boards and also to use them as volunteer wardens. On its face it looks like a good idea to get working women on the “in” of the OPA. Ah, but the heart is false!

Miss Ruth Ayres, a big-wig in the consumer division of the OPA, sang the keynote of the whole OPA outfit in the following words: “CONSUMERS’ CONFLICTS MUST BE SUBORDINATED TO THE WINNING OF THE WAR.”

Where, then, does the interest of the consumer come in? And how are working women going to protect themselves through the OPA, which “subordinates” their grievances?

The participation of trade union women’s auxiliaries in the OPA is like the participation of labor in the labor-management factory committees. The latter is a glorified way of putting the speed-up over on the worker. The former will only help put the grade-down of the dollar over on his wife.

Members of trade union women’s auxiliaries – having had organizational experience – must do a real job for their class at the present time. They must provide the leadership for forming bona fide consumers’ committees to work hand in hand with the unions. THIS IS THE ONLY CHANCE THERE IS OF CONTROLLING PRICES.

The casualties of modern war are on a “total” scale. The more horrible ones are on the battlefields. But those in the civilian lines are just as real. Ask any of the women whom the war has thrown out of their jobs. Women’s hosiery workers numbering 59,000 were “drafted” into the army of unemployed. From the automobile industry 41,000 women workers were also “selected” for the battalions of jobless. About 18,000 women silk workers and 14,000 women workers from jewelry factories were forced into the ranks of pavement pacers. There are tens of thousands more.

A great number of these women have not been able to find other jobs. THOSE WHO ARE OVER THIRTY MAY NEVER FIND OTHER JOBS. They may be strong, capable, experienced, have the “know-how” at their finger tips. But the exploiters of labor don’t want them. For the lower wages that women are still being paid, the bosses make sure to get the cream of the crop.

But not all women are thrown on the ash heap at the age of thirty. IT DEPENDS UPON WHAT CLASS THEY BELONG TO. For instance, Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt will never lack a lucrative job. Neither will Mrs. Anna Rosenberg, who now holds down remunerative jobs, both government and private.

Women of the upper classes can either wallow in luxury and idleness, if they are built that way; or they can have the pick of classy jobs, if they choose to be career women. There is no 30-year age limit.

And what do you say about the hypocrisy of the advertised campaign “to get women into industry.”

There are all these thousands of seasoned women workers walking the streets – but they are not wanted.

There are also thousands of Negro women knocking at the doors of industry – but there is no answer. In spite of the official ballyhoo, industry as a whole still refuses to employ Negroes – men and women alike. State employment agencies “put on file” applications of Negro women for jobs, and of Negro girls for admission to trade schools. Some openly state that industry doesn’t employ Negro women.

Here’s a gem of hypocrisy in high places. Women are wanted in industry all right, but – not all women. The bosses are choosy. The women must be young, inexperienced and unorganized – thus more likely to save the boss “labor trouble.” And the color of their skin must not be too dark.

These injustices against women workers and against Negroes are LABOR’S PROBLEMS. A resolution on these problems passed at a convention and allowed to slide into oblivion may salve the conscience of union leaders too busy planning the war to attend to labor’s needs. But rank and file action is what is needed to bring results. These problems concern all workers. They must be handled by the unions with determination, militancy and the will to end these crying wrongs!

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Last updated: 11 September 2014