[Labor History Workshop 9-23-1971 #2]

The continuation of an organizing workshop led by activist Staughton Lynd at Indiana University Northwest to discuss organizing around tax policy and investigating grocery pricing in Illinois and Indiana. A month earlier, President Richard Nixon had issued an executive order freezing wages for 90 days. In response, supermarkets were pressured to suspend price increases, although this group felt they were not adhering to this promise.

00:00Copy video clip URL Continued discussion from tape 15268 about grocery store price increase. A man notes that wages have been going down, prices going up for years. After Nov 15 part of this will be a dead issue, they’ll be able to (legally) raise their prices.

02:08Copy video clip URL A different man says that we know there’s a price increase coming. He asks if he can see price books at each store location, or only at a main headquarters of a chain. Staughton Lynd says it’s different for each store. At the market in his neighborhood there’s a book. And you have every right to copy those prices down. The guy responds that stores in his area usually tell them to go to the main office in Chicago to check the prices. How many people have the money or time to do that?

05:05Copy video clip URL Lynd says he has copies of the text of Nixon’s regulation that specifies that price books must be available at stores for the public to view. He can give them to any one who intends to go to supermarkets and ask to see prices.

05:49Copy video clip URL A woman says in Massachusetts, women were so angry about 300% inflation that they raided grocery warehouses and sold the items on the street at regular prices. If you make a big enough row people will listen. Lynd says that the high water mark of the American Revolution (which was the subject of his dissertation) had two objectives: there was a peoples movement to overtake mansions owned by Tory landlords and give the land to patriots. The other priority was keeping prices down. Inflation was out of control back then, much more dramatic than today.

07:55Copy video clip URL Another man asks, “What kind of long range goal can we imagine? As long as we have capitalism, supermarkets are going to need to turn a profit.” What if they say, “Look, we’re not making any more profit than any other business, percentage-wise. This is just how things are.” Lynd discusses the co-op model.

09:47Copy video clip URL Cut. A man is saying, people say we’re becoming more communist–there’s much more big government spending. He wonders how inflation has increased so dramatically. “I used to get candy and pop and then go to a show and ride the bus home for a quarter. [laughter] Well, maybe not a quarter, but what’s happened?”

11:50Copy video clip URL Another man, George, says we’re getting a big reaction to our efforts.

12:23Copy video clip URL A woman in mid-sentence. She says your wages are controlled by someone else. You have no say over prices going up and down. People are starting to recognize this and say what can we do? If they see that we can reduce some prices, even if it’s to the maximum they’ll charge. The stores interested in their reputation and the embarrassment of being un-patriotic. Another woman says we can educate people to look out for future scams to keep the stores honest. The first suit has been filed by the government about teacher’s wages, nothing to do with prices.

14:30Copy video clip URL A woman says that when peace movement started most thought that the end result would be that we’d end the war in Vietnam. Now it’s about an anti-imperialist attitude. If we start with a price freeze, we can get people to see the general problem of monopolies.

15:24Copy video clip URL Lynd responds to the discussion. He is cut off mid-sentence.

16:03Copy video clip URL END.



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