Published Date

September 1, 1944

Resource Type

GI Roundtable Series, Primary Source

From GI Roundtable 22: Will There Be Work for All? (1944)

In addition to all this general planning for postwar employment, particular attention is being paid to assuring jobs for veterans when they get home. The Selective Service and Training Act of 1940 the “draft law” to you-says that a man who is drafted from a job shall be restored to that job when he returns. There are several important “ifs” to it, however. If the man was an employee of the federal government, either the job he had or one of like seniority, status, and pay is absolutely assured him. If he left private employ he has the same assurance “unless the employer’s circumstances have changed so as to make it impossible or unreasonable” to require his reemployment. In all cases the veteran must be able to show a certificate of honorable discharge, he must be still qualified to perform the duties of his old job, and he must make application for reemployment within forty days of his discharge.


Where can an ex-GI get the straight dope?

The prime recommendation of the Baruch report, already mentioned, took account of the fact that it is hardly enough to say that demobilized soldiers should be reemployed. In order to “see that the human side of demobilization is not forgotten” amid the hustle of reconverting war industry, the Baruch committee recommended the centralization and unification of all governmental activities concerned with restoring servicemen and war workers to peacetime occupation. In particular the report asked that when the serviceman returns to his home community “there should be one place to which he can go in dignity and where he can be told of his rights and how he can get them.”

Acting on the recommendation of the Baruch report, the President set up a Retraining and Reemployment Administration in the Office of War Mobilization. Its functions are to direct and coordinate the work of all government agencies concerned with the retraining and reemployment of persons demobilized from the armed services or from war industries. Its “board of directors” is composed of representatives of the Department of Labor, Federal Security Agency, War Manpower Commission, Selective Service System, Veterans’ Administration, Civil Service Commission, War Department, Navy Department, and War Production Board.

The first act of the Retraining and Reemployment Administration was to order the creation of veterans’ service committees in each state and in each community where the cooperating agencies have local offices. These, made up of representatives of the Selective Service System, War Manpower Commission, and Veterans’ Administration, are to set up veterans’ information centers where necessary. In all cases they are to cooperate with and centralize all government and local volunteer information activities on behalf of the returning servicemen.

The Army and the other services are preparing printed material which will be handed to every man when he is discharged to tell him what are his rights and benefits and how he should go about getting them. The veterans’ information centers will further inform him when he arrives in his home community about get-ting the things to which he is entitled—especially jobs. The function of these committees, however, will be limited to advising the veteran and referring him to the proper people for the things he wants.

What about that old job or a new one?

For instance, if he wants his old job back again the Selective Service System is ready to help him. Under the terms of the draft law it has a Reemployment Division, with representatives attached to every local draft board, charged with seeing that ex-servicemen get back into their former jobs if they want them. If the man was not employed before the war or does not want to go back to his old job, the problem of placement is a little different. His case will be put in the hands of the local United States Employment Service office of the War Manpower Commission. In these offices will be information about local job openings or about needs for labor in other parts of the country.

The United States Employment Service acts not only as a job-finding agency, open to everyone without charge and maintaining special officers to assist in the placement of veterans. It also serves as the unemployment insurance office for those who have lost their old jobs and cannot find new ones right away. An unemployed person who registers at his local USES office automatically makes himself available for work and is referred to the first appropriate job that can be found. If no work for which he is qualified can be found, his claim for unemployment compensation is dealt with at the same place, and he continues to be available for work until he lands a job.

In all the larger and many of the smaller communities there are likewise private employment agencies, frequently specializing in workers or jobs of a particular kind. And beyond all these facilities for bringing the man and the job together there is always the widest of opportunities for the man to go out and find—or make—a job for himself. Veterans who wish to set themselves up in business will be able to get private loans, 50 per cent guaranteed by the government up to $2,000, oneasy terms.

For servicemen, thus, the big question still to be answered is who will get out of uniform first, and when? After victory in Europe the Army expects to release some men. Its system of discharge priorities, in which the opinions of a representative cross section of GI’s was taken into account, was announced in September 1944. Points will be awarded for length of service, overseas service, combat awards, and dependent children. Whether a man gets out early or late will depend on how many points he has—except for those men whose services are essential to military operations after V-E Day.

Do you want education and training?

In quite another field the government is readying plans that will have a good deal to do with the kinds of jobs that servicemen can get after they have returned home. These include plans to open the doors of colleges, technical and professional institutions, and vocational training schools to those who want more education and show aptitude and ability to profit by it. Physical and vocational rehabilitation or retraining is planned for those injured or handicapped in such a way as to need it.

Three different kinds of training are being developed or are contemplated: (1) vocational and technical training to aid men who, wish to reenter industrial jobs or find new, more skilled work than they had before; (2) a more formal kind of education for those young men whose college work was interrupted and who wish to resume it or who never had a chance to go to college but show the necessary ability; and (3) special training and educational opportunities for the men and women who have to spend some time in overseas service while awaiting demobilization.

The Conference on Postwar Readjustment of Civilian and Military Personnel recommended that the present educational activities of the Armed Forces Institute and other voluntary educational activities of the armed services should be expanded so that men in the services can prepare as well as possible to resume civilian life.

On the basis of this and other recommendations, the President, in October 1943, asked Congress to provide funds for a program of education and training for veterans. He recommended that the federal government make it financially possible for every man who has served honorably for a certain period to spend up to one year in a school, college, or technical institute, or in actual training in industry, to gain more education, learn a trade, or acquire needed knowledge and skill for farming, commerce, or other pursuits. In addition he urged that the federal government make it financially possible for a limited number of men and women from the armed forces, selected for special aptitudes, to carry on their general, technical, or professional education and training for a further period of 1, 2, or3 years.

Congress embodied these recommendations in the so-called “G. I. Bill of Rights,” which offers, among other things, federal aid for continued education. Honorably discharged veterans of at least 90 days’ service are entitled to one year of education or training or to a refresher or retraining course of any kind they want or need at any institution they choose. Depending on length of service and satisfactory progress, veterans may get federal support for up to three years’ additional education if they were 25 or under when drafted. They may get the same kind of sup-port if they were over 25 and their education was actually interrupted by induction. The government will pay tuition and similar costs up to $500 a year and subsistence of $50 a month to a man without dependents or $75 a month to one with dependents while he is completing his education.

Where does unemployment insurance fit in?

No effort to provide full employment would be complete without some safeguard against the temporary failure of all work plans to become a reality. When the Social Security Act was framed, one of the most important arguments advanced for it was that it would help to stabilize employment. Expressed in other words, one way of cushioning unemployment is to provide people who lose their jobs with a partial income; they can then continue to buy what is necessary until they find a new job and thus do not drag others into joblessness too.

Only about half the individuals now in the armed services were formerly employed in “covered” industries long enough to qualify for unemployment insurance benefits. The rest either never had jobs or are not covered because they worked on farms, in domestic employ, for nonprofit agencies, or were self-employed. And many of those eligible for benefits had not yet built up wage credits enough to pay out much in the form of compensation.

Here again the “G. I. Bill of Rights” provides coverage for all veterans regardless of their former job status. The payments are set at $20 a week and are limited to 8 weeks for each of the first three months of service and 4 weeks for each subsequent month of service up to a maximum of 52 weeks. These payments, of course, are to be reduced by the amount received for educational subsistence, through state unemployment payments, and the like. Also, veterans must register with the United States Employment Service and take appropriate jobs when offers are made.

Unemployment insurance now covers 40 million American workers, including those servicemen and women who have acquired “wage credits” in their state unemployment compensation records as a result of former employment in covered industries. While employment is at an all-time high during the war, claims for unemployment are at a corresponding low. In one state not a single payment was necessary during the whole month of October 1943, for instance. As a result, state unemployment compensation funds total more than 5 billion dollars and are larger than most states have ever before accumulated for any purpose.

These reserves, however, are not evenly distributed among the states in accord with the possible maximum load of postwar un-employment. Whether the reserve in any particular state is big enough to meet the need will depend on the amount of unemployment in that state, on how long the unemployment load lasts, and on how generous are the benefits payable under the state law. These vary at present from $15 to $22 a week, with $r8 the most frequent figure, and the period over which they are payable varies from 14 to 24 weeks, with 16 weeks being the average period.

In May 1944, it was estimated that the states had reserves large enough to pay average benefits under their respective laws for the maximum periods allowed in each particular state to a total of more than 17 million unemployed workers before their funds run out. If a heavy load of unemployment were concentrated in a given state over along period its reserves might be exhausted before all claimants had used up all their benefit rights. Then other funds would have to be sought, probably from the federal government.

Present provisions for the hazards of unemployment, thus, are arranged so as to make relief the last resort. The network of provisions for employment in the postwar period may be summed up as (1) providing jobs in industry, (2) providing public work if necessary in the absence of sufficient private employment, (3) unemployment insurance for those temporarily out of work, and (4) relief for those who can’t be employed at all. If the amount of effort and sincerity of purpose that is now being put into post-war job planning is matched by a like determination to carry the plans through, no serviceman or woman need worry about having to go on relief.

The question of jobs after the war is of personal importance to everyone. Discussion of it deserves thoughtful preparation and guidance on the part of the leader.

This pamphlet of course cannot and does not give the answers many would like to have to their personal questions. It does, however, indicate clearly what attempts are being made now to assure, as far as it is humanly possible to do so, that the answers will be satisfactory when they can be given. If servicemen and women are to make intelligent decisions about postwar jobs, it is also important for them to understand the basic factors that will affect those decisions. Such factors have been carefully explained.

You will note that the material has been organized around the series of questions listed in the table of contents. If you repro-duce these questions on one large chart (or on three separate charts, each for one major section into which the text is divided), you will provide a valuable aid for thinking by your group.

Still another suggestion may appear practical to you. This is to plan your discussion as a comparison of what happened after the 1918 Armistice with what it is anticipated will be done to provide work for all when World War II is over.

Scattered through the text you will find other questions besides those used as headings. Some of these may be helpful to you in stimulating discussion or in anticipating questions which are likely to come from the floor. It is a good idea to list them for possible use during your meeting. Additional questions are listed here:

  1. Do you think that mass unemployment can be permanently ended? Or do you think that it is inevitable? What are the important factors that make the employment level vary, from time to time?
  2. What should be the place of business, of labor, and of government in making and in carrying out postwar employment plans? Is an individual’s “right to work” matched by an obligation on the part of somebody else to give him work?
  3. How do you feel about legislation prohibiting certain kinds of people from holding certain kinds of jobs? Would you favor a law barring women, for instance, from some employments as a method of assuring jobs to returning soldiers?
  4. Should government units plan public work projects to make postwar jobs? Should planning be done now or not until the appearance of mass unemployment requires it? Should public work be limited to construction projects using manual labor, or should projects in the fields of public health, education, recreation, and the social services be included? What hours and wages should be set in comparison to those of local private enterprise? .
  5. If there is a shortage of jobs in your line in your home locality, should there be an opportunity for you to take retraining for a different kind of employment? Should you consider moving to another place where there are jobs to fit your abilities? What other factors besides a local job shortage would influence your decisions?
  6. Would you consider it a good investment in your future to go back to school or college if you do not immediately find a job to your liking? Would you see any advantage in getting more education even if a pretty good job was open to you right away?
  7. Do you expect to have more freedom or less freedom in choosing, your employment after the war than before? Why?
  8. How can a man in the Army prepare himself for return to civilian occupations? Does the Army offer individuals a chance to increase their ability and training in specialized lines? Do you think that Army training and experience has had values for you that make up for time and experience lost on a civilian job?
  9. In order to attain “full employment” after the war, would it be better to demobilize the Army quickly or gradually?
  10. Do you think it is likely that any new industry will provide large numbers of jobs after this war as the automobile industry did after World War I? Why do you think so? What industry would it be?

Next section: To the Discussion Leader: Will There Be Work for All?