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T. Stamm

Unemployment Insurance – A Slogan to Unite
Teachers and Workers

(December 1933)

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 54, 9 December 1933, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The growth of the population, the struggle against illiteracy, the lack of schools and the increasing specialization of knowledge and improvement in educational methods all make necessary an expansion of the educational system of the United States, particularly what is called the free school system. But no expansion is taking place. On the contrary, under the pressure of the crisis the capitalists are trying to conserve profits or reduce losses, among other means, by easing the tax burden through economy in civil and state government at the expense of the educational system.

The toll this economy has exacted can be gauged from some figures given in a recent resolution presented to George F. Zook, United States Commissioner of Education, by four hundred representatives of forty educational organizations. “More than 2,200,000 children of school age are already deprived of educational opportunity” and “nearly 2,000 rural schools failed to open this fall”. To these figures should be added the curtailment of school terms, the shortage of indispensable material like text books, the crowded class-rooms and the other easily imagined injurious effects of this economy.

What all this means to the teachers can be seen from statements in the same resolution. “One in every three American teachers is now receiving less than $750 per year. Thousands of teachers are receiving no salary at all.”

Not A Temporary Phenomenon

There is good reason to believe that this contraction is not a temporary phenomenon. The need for economy is not likely soon to disappear. The crisis is not over. The bankers and realty interests will continue to squeeze for greater profits and greater economies. And this crisis, should the capitalists succeed in overcoming, it, will be succeeded by others of a deeper character. If our present experience means anything it indicates that the attacks on the educational system will increase and cut deeper.

It follows that the employed teachers will suffer a drastic lowering of their living and working conditions if they do not organize and resist. The thousands of unemployed teachers and the thousands more who are qualifying to teach will never do so if they wait for the capitalist masters of society to provide them with the opportunity. Together they should struggle for the expansion of the educational system and resist its contraction.

For this they need unity. The unemployed should support the struggle of the employed against curtailment of school facilities as every successful resistance increases the possibility of advancing to the counter-attack for expansion of them. The employed should support the struggle of the unemployed for work and relief as every success in this direction removes a threat against the lowering of their own standards through the pressure of the unemployed’ for work.

Unemployment Insurance for Teachers

The fight for unemployment insurance is one of the best means of uniting the employed end unemployed teachers. It conforms to the bitter need of the unemployed for relief. And it thereby deprives the economizers of a lever to lower the standards of the employed.

At bottom the problems of the educational system are insoluble except on the basis of the social revolution. Sooner or later the course of the teachers’ struggles will lead them into the channels of the revolutionary movement.

Today the problem is the organization of a struggle for defense and relief. By their own efforts the teachers cannot succeed against their powerful enemies. They need assistance from the workers who have the same enemies.

In the struggle for unemployment insurance the teachers have a means of joining their struggle with that of the workers movement. In the Cincinnati 1932 and Washington 1933 conventions the A.F. of L. went on record for unemployment insurance. We do not expect that Green and Woll will organize the movement for it of their own accord. But the wheels can be set in motion by pressure from the rank and file.

The teachers now have an opportunity to begin the agitation in the A.F. of L. The American Federation of Teachers is a part of it. The passage of the resolution for unemployment insurance two years running gives a good basis to raise the question of doing something about it in the A.F. of L. It gives the teachers’ movement a card of entry to almost every union meeting to present its case for united action. The teachers should begin this important activity.

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Last updated: 4 January 2016