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Jack Wilson

From Our West Coast Correspondent

The Cost of Living Shoots Skyward

(May 1941)

From Labor Action, Vol. 5 No. 19, 12 May 1941, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

A 24-hour shutdown of all government projects in San Diego involving 13,000 AFL workers quickly brought wage adjustments demanded by the strikers.

This action came after the usual months of fooling around by Navy officials in regard to union negotiations. Since housing conditions are fantastic beyond description in San Diego – the terrific boom here makes it impossible to set up enough homes even if someone wanted to, and nobody does except at a huge profit – and the cost of living is sky high, the AFL workers have demanded a wage increase.

Their case was so sound that even local Naval officials admitted they were entitled to an increase. So the boys were stalled around by the higher-ups in Washington.

But the complete shutdown brought results fast. In 24 hours, to be exact. Almost before the newspapers had time to whip up a “sabotaging national defense “ baloney scare.

Prices Go Up Sky High

Folks out here got two stiff jolts last week that have everyone talking, plenty and furiously.

The conservative Los Angeles Times came out with a big story that the cost of living in this area will have increased by 50 per cent in September over that of one year ago.

Let me repeat that. In one year, the cost of living will have gone up 50 per cent, says a conservative newspaper!

If Labor Action said that, it would just be radical propaganda. Some people have doubted our analysis on this point.

But the facts are too painfully present for anyone to ignore any longer.

Already, since last September, the cost of living has gone up around 35 per cent. Rents here increase monthly, since the aircraft boom brings are nothing to write home about.

Food in the grocery stores and in the restaurants has gone up in a glaring fashion. Milk, sugar, meat, above all meat and bread, are some of the commodities where prices are high. And in restaurants, 35 cent meals have gone to 45 and fifty cents. Movie prices are up, since the whole burden of taxation has been foisted on the customer.

The pinch has been felt by every consumer.

Workers who got wage increases in the last six months find that they are having a harder time of making a go of things:

Some waitresses in a union told me that they get more and more complaints about the cost of meals – and they correctly add that they are tired of it, since they just work there too.

And you should hear the housewives talk about the way the grocery bill has gone up!

On top of all this has come the report from Washington about the new taxes planned to pay the cost of Wall Street’s war. Five cents on a pound of coffee! That stuck in our mind.

The other taxes all hit the poor man. The new income taxes will “hit the lower brackets, “ as they say in Washington.

The squeeze is just crushing. The whole process is nothin but a combined form of inflation, making the poor man pay for the rich man’s war.

In this, like in so many other things, the West Coast either goes up or comes down the fastest. Everything seems to operate that way here. And right now, inflation is what’s hitting the poor man below the belt.

It’s time for the unions to demand more, and for the housewives as an auxiliary, to form committees in neighborhoods to fight against the high prices.

And it should be done around the general idea of making the rich pay for their own war.

Legislature in Anti-Labor Session

Up in Sacramento a bunch of morons are meeting in what is supposed to be an august session of the State Legislature. Among other items they are considering are a few bills directed agains labor. Merely 4,000 bills! And they do this on money the tax payers pour out.

They have one bill, the Tenney law, which is aimed at “subversive “ organizations. It is calculated to smash all militant and revolutionary labor organizations, by imposing huge fines and jail sentences for membership, by demanding full financial accounts, publication of all membership and sympathizers lists, and we believe, reports on activities. It’s a cinch to pass and be signed in a few weeks.

In order to look like an economy body, these same gentlemen, many of them direct representatives of the Associated Farmers, also are trying to shift the whole burden of relief back to the counties, as was the case one hundred years ago in America.

Also, this would give the local Hitlers, who are entrenched in the relief set-up, a chance to use that weapon against unions by denying any aid to strikers.

In a brilliant stroke of genius, the pompous ignoramuses who are officially called the state education committee of the legislature, produced a profound idea on smashing Hitlerism. All school buses, by state law, will be painted red, white and blue, they recommend. Which prompted a cynical columnist to ask, “What, no stars? “ Obviously fifth column sabotage working in the committee.

Where’s Your Draft Card?

Once in a while the Los Angeles police department takes time out from its strike-breaking activities – when there aren’t any strikes in progress – to carry out what is known as a traffic drive. A bunch of bluecoats surround a busy highway and suddenly swoop down on all the motorists passing by. Flashlights glare into your eyes, your car is given a test, you’re asked a lot of questions and then permitted to drive on. It gives you the same feeling you get when watching a movie scene where the Gestapo surrounds a block and then goes to work on everyone who happens to be there.

This feeling has gotten stronger lately since the cops have begun their inquisition with the question – the very first question – Where’s your draft card?

Which reminds us of the latest news from California’s draft camps. Many letters coming from there to folks back home have been marked by one major complaint. Most of the men have been given furloughs to return home or visit the city tor a few days and they have been treated with such contempt, especially by what passes off as polite society, that they returned to camp vowing not to go to the city again.

“All the boys are sore and talking plenty about the treatment they got, “ is how one draftee expressed it.

But their solution is a cowardly one. Don’t stay at the camps. Take a bunch to town with you, and insist upon your rights.

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