Each Monday, we turn to a day in the newspaper's history for a look at what the Editorial Board found worthy of comment. We will preserve the punctuation and capitalization of the original editorial column. Here is what we wrote on July 8, 1939:
Not a Job
Prevailing wage is a seductive slogan for the striking WPA employees who wish to enlist the sentiment of privately employed workers behind their protest at being asked to work 30 hours a week without an increase in pay. Also, at first glimpse, it looks as if the government is unfair in doubling hours of work without increase of wage.
But if one stops and examines the issue a bit below the surface there may be another opinion. After all, WPA workers, whatever the politicians may have suggested to them, have not had a job in the ordinary sense. They have been, in fact, on relief, and the "prevailing wage" previously paid for enough hours to total up to "security" allowance was a not-quite-honest disguise of the real situation. It was not "a good day's pay for a good day's work" - it was relief; one has to be in need of relief before becoming eligible for WPA work.
Employed workers, union men and others, may be less sympathetic with the strikers if they think where the money comes from, and what it is spent for. As one union worker was quoted in the Racine Journal-Times, where WPA projects have come to a standstill:
"We are scraping along trying to make a living without going on relief or WPA. But those who go on WPA get $90 for two weeks' work, and then have the other two weeks of each month either to loaf, or go out and get private jobs. So, while we have to help pay their $90, through taxes, they take our money, and then go into competition with us."
There's a lot in that. The principal object of the congressional change in WPA hours was to weed out of the work relief program those who were making WPA a career, who didn't bother to seek or accept private employment because WPA gave them a living with a minimum of effort. It was a vote-catching political set-up in the first instance, and it had to end sometime.
The gravy train is derailed.