The WPA and Federal Relief Policy

By Donald S. Howard | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IX
CONDITIONS OF EMPLOYMENT: USE OF AVAILABLE SKILLS VERSUS SKILL FOR THE JOB

TWO IMPORTANT aspects of the WPA program have been (a) to employ workers at jobs in keeping with their skills and ability, and (b) to make reasonably sure that work assignments are given only to workers who are competent to perform them.


EMPLOYMENT IN RELATION TO SKILLS

The administration's objective of providing for workers jobs in keeping with their skills has been emphasized again and again. This intent was stated tellingly in 1939 in an inscription on the WPA building at the New York World's Fair. This read:

WPA seeks to employ at their own skills: accountants, architects, bricklayers, biologists, carpenters, chemists, dentists, draftsmen, dietitians, electricians and engravers, foresters and firemen, geologists and gardeners, hoisting engineers and housekeepers, instrument men and iron workers, inspectors, jackhammer operators and janitors, kettlemen and kitchen maids, librarians and linotypers, locksmiths and lumbermen, millwrights and machinists, musicians, nurses and nutritionists, oilers and opticians, painters and plasterers, plumbers and pattern makers, photographers and printers, physicians, quarry men and quilters, riveters and roofers, roadmakers and riggers, sculptors and seamstresses, stonemasons and stenographers, statisticians, teamsters and truck drivers, teachers and tabulators, upholsterers and ushers, veterinarians, welders and wood-choppers, waiters and watchmen, X-ray technicians.


Purposes Underlying Federal Policy

The need for this policy was restated by President Roosevelt in April, 1939, as follows: "The provision of work for . . . people at occupations which will conserve their skills is of prime importance."1

Terming preservation of the usefulness of the unemployed a

____________________
1
As quoted in the New York Times, April 28, 1939. For further discussion of the importance of preserving skills and work habits see chap. 32.

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