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Opinion >  Column

100 years ago in Spokane: Here’s how local leaders thought the city should curb unemployment in 1921

 (Spokane Daily Chronicle archives)
(Spokane Daily Chronicle archives)

Unemployment was rampant, and Spokane civic leaders proposed a sweeping plan to remedy the problem.

The plan included the following:

  • Create a central employment agency, where all jobs were listed and all workers could register.
  • Instead of laying off workers, encourage companies to institute a split-shift plan in which people could work at least part time.
  • Create a “municipal wood-cutting lot” and give “honest laborers” employment there.
  • Force all jail prisoners to work, under the theory that fewer “lazy men” would commit petty crimes in order to get free room and board.
  • Separate the labor bureau from the charitable bureaus, under the theory that some laborers did not want to ask for work because they did not want to appear to be asking for charity.
  • “Endeavor in all ways to possible to keep ‘down-and-outers’ from flocking to the city and becoming a burden in the winter.”
  • Prioritize work for “Spokane family men” and make it known that “outsiders cannot expect work here until all local men are cared for.”
  • When companies were forced to make cuts, they should “make surveys of their help to determine who can be let out to best advantage because several in the same family are employed.”

The above plan was made by city commissioners, members of the Chamber of Commerce employment committee, labor leaders and other officials. A commission would be appointed to implement some or all of the ideas.

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