What about Unemployment Councils? – Proposal from Rosanna Cambron and Joe Sims, Co Chairpersons of CPUSA

May 13, 2010

We’re reaching out to comrades and friends all over the country to join in building a united campaign against unemployment. Until it’s safe to work we need income and when it’s safe we demand sustainable jobs with a Green New Deal!

The time has come to organize unemployment councils that would bring together labor and community groups to fight the economic crisis. 

If you want to help out, please pledge to do so!  Pledging means that you’ll help out in any way you can: circulating articles PW (peoplesword.org), sharing memes, joining a car caravan, making a phone call, helping a comrade or friend in need. It can also mean you are able help build a coalition to fight this crisis as it is affecting people at the local level. 

Can you sign and circulate this pledge? That’s one place to start! This issue, along with the November election, may be the most important struggle of our lives!!

The following is background information relating to the proposal offered here. The Unemployment Councils of the USA represent a nationwide initiative taken by the CPUSA in 1930 in response to widespread and growing suffering among working people everywhere. Unemployment that year exceeded 25 percent of the workforce.

Forbes Magazine – not one bit left-leaning – on May 10 said that, “the adjusted unemployment rate is really closer to 20 percent.” In other words, we are returning to 1930. 

How did unemployment councils work? We reproduce the introductory section of a 20-page document from 1932 that outlines purposes and methods. It was published as a mimeographed pamphlet.  

The title is:“Fighting Methods and Organization Forms of the Unemployed Councils: A Manual for Hunger Fighters.”  

Role and Program of the Unemployed Councils.

The Unemployed Councils base their program on a recognition of the fact that those who own and control the wealth and government are willing to allow millions to suffer hunger and want in order that their great wealth shall not be drawn upon for relief. We know that the living standards of employed and unemployed alike will be progressively reduced unless we organize and conduct united and militant resistance. We know that the amount and extent of relief which the ruling class can be compelled to provide depends upon the extent to which the unemployed and employed workers together organize and fight. The Unemployed Councils, therefore, are the organs for determined, uncompromising struggle against all who are responsible for and all who assist in imposing upon the workers the miseries that result from mass unemployment.

In the effort to safeguard the masses from the effects of unemployment, the Unemployed Councils organize and conduct the daily struggles for the following basic demands:

For Unemployment Insurance, Equal to Full Wages, For All Workers, Regardless of Race, Sex, Age, or Nationality Who Are Unemployed Through No Fault of Their Own. Unemployment insurance shall be entirely at the expense of the Federal and State governments and the employers. It shall be administered by the workers themselves.

For Immediate Adequate Cash Relief by the City, County, State and Federal Governments.

The struggle for immediate cash relief is also conducted against existing public and semi-public relief agencies and against individual and corporate large employers.

Free Rent, Gas, Light, Water, etc., to All Unemployed Workers. Reduced Rates and Rents for All Part Time Workers. 

No Evictions, Foreclosures, and Repossessions for Unemployed.

We refuse to regard the property rights of landlords, bankers, credit merchants, and public utility corporations as more sacred than the right of workers to a home and to belongings which they toiled for years to acquire

The rest of this revealing document may be read here: http://www.marxisthistory.org/history/usa/groups/ucouncils/1932/0000-ncuc-fightingmethods.pdf

We conclude this note on unemployment councils by urging readers to look at Bruce Bostick’s article “Is it time to think about Unemployed Councils?” It appeared in People’s World on April 24.  Bostick begins: 

“Unemployed Councils cropped up across the country in the 1930s during the Great Depression and again in the 1980s after the mass layoffs in the steel industry. I was a part of the effort to start up such a council in Lorain, Ohio.

“Our Lorain Communist Party club played the key role in establishing and running a storefront coalition grouping, the Unemployed Crisis Center, that won benefits for workers and positively affected how organized labor and public officials treated the unemployed. We were able to concretely help thousands of unemployed workers and, as a side benefit, we recruited new folks to the CPUSA. …” 

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