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Jack Wilson

Workers Face Unemployment, CIO Reports

(January 1942)

From Labor Action, Vol. 6 No. 1, 5 January 1942, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The terrible specter of mass unemployment hovered over the head of the American labor movement as the year 1942 rolled around.

This gloomy prospect was emphasized in an official CIO report, published in the CIO Economic Outlook, in forecasting employment trends for 1942.

The CIO economists predicted that 2,500,000 workers would lose their jobs by next October because of a shortage of materials and the failure to convert existing plants into war production facilities.

Since the latest available figures show that at present there are around 4,000,000 unemployed, the new layoffs would bring the total to 6,500,000 unemployed by October, 1942.

Contrary to popular belief, expansion of arms production and the whole arms program will not increase employment, but tend to intensify the problem, the CIO says.

The CIO has pointed out on many occasions the dislocations in employment which would be caused by the old level of the arms program. As our arms program is doubled or tripled, the dislocations in employment will be greatly intensified.”

This whole problem of unemployment will be aggravated by the fact that the cost of living will increase sharply, both for the employed and unemployed workers.

Food Prices Rise

The CIO estimates that food costs will rise 12 to 15 per cent in the coming year, augmenting a 20.8 per cent rise which took place between August 1939 and November 1941.

All wage gains of recent months will be wiped out by this upward trend in living costs, the CIO declares.

“The 17 per cent rise in average hourly earnings has been reduced to 4.5 per cent as the result of the increased cost of living. By February 1, with the cost of living rising at the rate of 1.5 per cent per month, the entire rise in hourly earnings will be wiped out.”

In contrast to, this outlook for the labor movement, the CIO points out that there has been a 32.2 per cent increase in profits of all business for the first three quarters of 1941, as compared to a similar period in 1940, according to the conservative Federal Reserve Board.

What all this means in terms of actual human existence should be clear. The workers, even during the height of war production, have no glorious future ahead of them. Even now, millions face unemployment.

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