Our Job with the WPA - 1936

Front Cover, Our Job with the WPA

Front Cover, Our Job with the WPA, a Brochure from the Works Progress Administration, 13 March 1936. GGA Image ID # 151600ebce


Transmittal Letter and Envelope

Our Job with the WPA, Allen Forsberg Transmittal Letter, 14 January 1937.

Our Job with the WPA, Allen Forsberg Transmittal Letter, 14 January 1937. GGA Image ID # 15e74154de





January 14, 1937

Dear Sir:

Because of your interest in problems of the worker and your organization's role in community affairs, Frank Morrison, Secretary of the American Federation of Labor, requests this timely material for your study.

A copy of "Our lob with the WPA" is being placed in the hands of each project worker by his State Administrator, so that he may know the purpose of the Works Program as well as his rights and responsibilities.

Many other vital questions are answered in a report on the Works Program, now on the presses. Should you desire a copy for your group we could send it, as long as the limited supply lasts.


Allen Forsberg
Advisor on Labor Relations


Mailing Envelope, Our Job with the WPA 1937 - Longshoreman's Union, Connecut, OH.

Mailing Envelope, Our Job with the WPA 1937 - Longshoreman's Union, Connecut, OH. GGA Image ID # 15e749a7f4


Letter by Harry L. Hopkins - 1936

Notice to All WPA Workers, Harry L. Hopkins, 13 March 1936

Notice to All WPA Workers, Harry L. Hopkins, 13 March 1936. GGA Image ID # 15e8750f31




March 13, 1936.

TO: All State Works Progress Administrators
SUBJECT: Notice to all WPA Workers

All State Works Progress Administrators are hereby instructed to post in every district office and to deliver to every project foreman an exact copy of the following regulation:

"No employee of the Works Progress Administration, either administrative or engaged on a project, is required to make any contribution to any political party.

"No Works Progress Administration employee's job will be in jeopardy because of the failure of said employee to make such contribution.

" No employee of the Works Progress Administration shall at any time solicit contributions for any political party and evidence of such solicitation will be cause for immediate discharge. The question of whether or not to contribute to any political party is a matter entirely for the voluntary decision of said employee.

"No person shall be employed or discharged by the Works Progress Administration on the ground of his support or nonsupport of any candidate of any Political organization. "


/s/ Harry L. Hopkins

What Are WPA Jobs? - 1936

Question. What is WPA?
Answer. The WPA is one of several Federal agencies established by the President and Congress to bring about recovery by giving work to the unemployed.
Q. Are there other agencies of the Government that have been set up to provide work for the unemployed?
A. Yes. Among these are the Public Works Administration (PWA), Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), Resettlement Administration (RA).
Q. What is the largest number of workers these agencies ever employed?
A. During February 1936 the total number of men and women working was 3,853,000. As a result of an increase in private industry and seasonal agricultural employment more than 500,000 fewer are employed on work projects now (July 1936) .
Q. Does the WPA give relief without work?
A. No. Direct relief is generally taken care of by the local people.
Q. Can any unemployed person get a job on WPA?
A. No, only those able-bodied unemployed persons who are in greatest need and who have been so certified by a local agency.
Q. Will all those certified by such local agency be given work?
A. Not necessarily. WPA is limited by the amount of money appropriated by Congress.
Q. How many people in one family are allowed to work on WPA?
A. Generally only one. If the family has a boy in the CCC camps or one of the family is getting work with the National Youth Administration (NYA), that does not necessarily keep the head of the family from working on WPA. Of course, no one under 18 years of age can be hired, except in NYA.
Q. Can old people or sick people work on WPA?
A. Certainly not if they are sick or so old that it is not safe for them or for others who work around them.
Q. Do race or color or beliefs keep a man from getting work on WPA?
A. No.


Q. Do these rules apply to women workers as well as men?
A. Yes. (There are about 400,000 women working in the WPA.)


Q. Why does the WPA have these projects?
A. In order to provide employment on useful projects for you and for other qualified persons who cannot find employment in private industry.
Q. Is WPA the same thing as emergency relief?
A. No. When we had the Emergency Relief Program, many workers did not get a chance to work for the money they received. Under WPA you earn a monthly wage for the work you do.
Q. When I take a Government job, am I still on relief?
A. No. You are off relief. You are working.
Q. What is the chance of getting a job at my regular trade?
A. If you are not working at your regular trade on the project, it is probably because there are no jobs open for your particular trade. This is one of the toughest problems the Work Program has had to meet, because the Government projects don't call for many different trades. Many skilled workers have to take common labor jobs. For example, it is impossible to hire skilled miners, skilled tailors, and skilled weavers on Government projects. The Work Program does not have projects like these, because they would interfere with private business. You should file an application at the National Reemployment Service office for work at the trade you know. They will let you know if they get a call for a man of your experience.


Q. How long will WPA jobs last?
A. The Government is making every effort to diminish the Work Program as rapidly as private jobs can be found by the workers who are in need because of the depression. Congress made a second appropriation of money for WPA to continue the work.
Q. Do I lose my job when the project I am working on is finished?
A. Not necessarily. You should be reassigned to another job. There may be a delay. It is not easy to keep millions of people constantly at work, and workers themselves will have to help keep things going.


Q. At what rate will I be paid?
A. You will receive a monthly wage which will be figured at the hourly rate of pay prevailing in your locality for the occupation. The number of hours of work per month is established by dividing your local hourly rate into your monthly wage.
Q. How often will I be paid?
A. Most projects pay twice a month.
Q. Do I get my pay promptly at the end of a work period?
A. No. There is generally several days' delay in getting your check. This is because the timekeeper has to make out the pay roll to show who has worked. Then the pay roll has to be sent to the office so the checks can be made out. If you have to wait more than a few days, ask your foreman or project supervisor about it.
Q. Do all workers get the same monthly wage?
A. No. In general, the more skill the job requires, the more the pay will be.
Q. What are some other reasons for differences in pay?
A. Workers who live in big cities generally get more than those who live in small towns and in the country because it costs more to live in big cities.
Q. Are mistakes sometimes made in setting wages in different cities and for different jobs?
A. Yes. Mistakes are sure to be made in giving work to millions of unemployed people. Some mistakes have already been corrected. Others will be corrected as they are found.
Q. Is it possible to have the monthly wage or the hourly rate increased?
A. This is possible only if facts justify a change. WPA officials have to be governed by the rules as set up under the law, and by conditions prevailing in the locality. If you have questions you should submit them to the local or State WPA offices.
Q. Where will I be paid?
A. Your checks will be mailed to you or delivered to you on the job.
Q. How can I get a raise in pay?
A. Work on these projects is paid for according to four classifications of work: Unskilled, intermediate (semiskilled), skilled, professional and technical. If there is a higher paid job available for which you are trained, you can apply for a reclassification. If you are reclassified from unskilled to a intermediate or skilled, you will get the higher pay. Much depends on local customs.


Q. Do I get docked for being late or absent?
A. Yes. The foreman will tell you how much you lose for being late or absent.
Q. What if I get sick-does my pay go on?
A. No.
Q. What if I stay away from the job because I want to do something else?
A. You will not be paid for any time you do not work.
Q. Can my wages be pledged, assigned, or garnisheed?
A. No.
Q. How much money can be taken out of my monthly earnings if I am put up in a work camp?
A. If your project is so far away from town that it takes too much time to go to and from work every day and a camp is set up at the project, some of your pay will be deducted for your food and shelter. The amount deducted will be deter-mined by your State Administrator.
Q. When a job is completed or postponed, does my pay go on?
A. No.
Q. Do I get paid while I am waiting to be assigned to another job?
A. No.
Q. Is there any way I can make up lost time?
A. You are paid only for the time you actually work, but you will be allowed every reasonable opportunity to make up time lost because of weather conditions or temporary interrup tions beyond your control. Such lost time may be made up in the current or succeeding pay-roll months, as the job permits.


Q. Do all workers have to put in the same number of hours on WPA projects?
A. No, but no worker may be required to work more than 8 hours per day, 40 hours per week, or 140 hours in two semi - monthly pay periods, except to make up lost time or in extreme emergencies. This rule is only for WPA and not for other governmental agencies.
Q. Who can change the number of hours I have to work?
A. The WPA Administrator of your State can change the number of hours per day, week, or month; but the hours cannot be more than 8 per day, 40 per week, or 140 in two semi- monthly pay periods, except to make up lost time or in extreme emergencies.
Q. If there is an emergency and I have to work more than the usual number of hours, can I be paid for over-time?
A. No. If you are required to work overtime, your hours will be shorter on another day to make up for the extra time you worked. It is against the law to pay any Government employee in the country for overtime.
Q. If it rains or the project is held up for some other reason such as not having materials, do I get a cut in salary?
A. Yes, unless you can make up the lost time.
Q. Will I get paid for holidays if I don't work?
A. No. You get paid only when you work.


Q. Can I be fired from the job?
A. Yes. You can be fired if your work is not satisfactory.
Q. If I am fired from a project, does that mean that I can't get another Government job?
A. No. If your conduct justifies it, you may get another chance. Ask to be reinstated.
Q. Suppose I am fired for reasons I think are unfair. What can I do?
A. If you think your discharge was unfair, you can appeal to the local WPA officials. If they rule against you, you can appeal to the State officials, and if you are still ruled against and you are not satisfied you may appeal to the Labor Policies Board at the general offices of the Works Progress Administration, Washington, DC.

NOTE.—Foremen, supervisors, and other WPA officials have many trouble-some problems in trying to keep the projects going, and to keep you supplied with tools and a job. They have a right to expect your co-operation in their efforts to see that an orderly and efficient job is done.


Q. Do I have a right to complain about wages, hours, and other things?
A. Yes. You can complain to the foreman, the local WPA office, the State Administrator, or the Labor Policies Board in Washington.
Q. May a union of project workers send a representative or delegate to the WPA district officials to adjust grievances?
A. Yes.
Q. Does the representative have to be a WPA worker?
A. No
Q. Does the Government give extra help to workers who have been sick and lost pay?
A. No. If you need extra help, you will have to get it from the city or county officials or some private agency.
Q. If I am ill, will I get free medical attention from the WPA?
A. No.


Q. Do I get compensation if I am hurt on the job? If so, what do I get?
A. Yes. The most you can get is $25 per month. NOTE.-All safety rules should be carefully followed.
Q. When does my compensation begin if I am hurt?
A. It begins 3 days after your injury is reported.
Q. Where can I find out more about compensation?
A. Every work project has a large cardboard sign with the compensation rules on it. You should read and study it. One of these rules says: "Secure first-aid treatment. Do not neglect small injuries. Blood poisoning or permanent disability or death might result. " This is very important.


Q. Is equipment provided to protect us from injury?
A. Yes. Either the Government or the sponsor of the project will provide goggles, safety belts, or life-lines, to protect you against eye injury, dust, falling when working in quarries, tree-trimming jobs, and other dangers.
Q. Am I expected to work in dangerous places if I am afraid of falling?
A. No. If you get dizzy on scaffolds or around trenches, you should tell your foreman. He doesn't want you to get hurt and will put you at other work.
Q. Am I supposed to work in water without boots on?
A. No. You should have boots. You should provide your own if you possibly can. If you cannot, the sponsor or the Government will furnish boots if the work requires it.
Q. Is it part of my job to look after my own safety?
A. Yes. You should be careful at all times so you will not get hurt or hurt other workers.
Q. Should I report unsafe conditions?
A. Yes. Tell your foreman if you notice any conditions that may cause an accident, or if trucks are speeding or drivers are careless around workmen, or if trenches or scaffolds are not safely braced, or lumber or other things are not properly piled.
Q. Should I report defective tools?
A. Yes, especially cracked wedges or mushroomed drill-heads, dull axes, and splintered handles.
Q. Am I supposed to furnish my own drinking cup?
A. You should, because, if everybody uses the same cup, a disease that someone has might be caught by everybody.
Q. Must I report all injuries?
A. Yes, even minor cuts and scratches. Your first-aid man or your foreman will give you aid until you can get to the doctor, if you need one.
Q. If I disobey safety instructions and am hurt, will I be taken care of?
A. You will be treated for your injury, but if you disobey instructions on purpose you may not get compensation.


Q. Is it all right for me to join a workers' union?
A. Yes.
Q. What are good reasons for not taking a private job?
A. If the job pays substandard wages or has bad working conditions, you do not have to take it.
Q. What if it is to be only a short job?
A. If it is to be a short job, tell your foreman. He should hold your place open for you.
Q. What if the foreman can't keep my job open; can I get back on WPA when the private job ends?
A. If the foreman cannot keep your job open it may be for reasons over which he has no control. You should also ask advice of the WPA Employment Division officials.
Q. Where do I go to apply for work in private business?
A. Go to the National Reemployment Service. Besides supplying workers to Government jobs, the National Reemployment Service gets calls for workers from private businesses and notifies men and women who are registered with them to apply for jobs that are open. Tell the National Reemployment Service what you can do so that they will call you when a private job you can fill comes along, and keep in touch with them.
Q. If I can get private jobs on holidays and after working hours, will it endanger my WPA job?
A. Not necessarily. This will depend on how much you earn on the side and whether the pay you accept interferes with opportunities of other workers.


Q. Suppose I get a chance to work at something besides a Government job. Should I take it?
A. Yes, unless you can show good reasons for not taking it.
Q. Does the Government give supplementary relief for large families?
A. No supplementary relief is given by the WPA. Workers who need it should apply to local county or State agencies.


Q. Can I give my work card to some other member of my family if I cannot report for work?
A. No. A work card may only be used by the person whose name is on it.


Q. How can I get a job close to my home?
A. The Government tries to place workers as close to their homes as possible, but it is a hard job. Remind the assignment officer until he can make the best possible placement for you.


Q. Do I have to pay my own carfare?
A. Sometimes you do and sometimes you don't. You should not have to pay more than the carfare you would pay on any private job.


Q. Does the Federal Government select the projects on which we work?
A. No. Practically a hundred percent of the work projects are selected, planned, and supervised by the local community where they are being done. The school board plans the school projects and asks for them. The mayor and city council ask for street projects. The health department asks for sanitary projects. Similar local public agencies ask for others. It is the responsibility of the local government to select good projects and to insist that they be well done.
Q. What if I think the project I am working on is a waste of money; can I complain about it?
A. Yes. All projects are selected by local officials and as a local citizen you should be interested not only in the efficiency but the use the project will be to your community.
Q. If I think the work is valuable, do I have a right to 'tell the world"?
A. Yes. If your union or your group wants to hold a celebration when the project is finished, ask your supervisor if he will arrange it, and invite other citizens to come and see it. If it is a school, the school board should help. If it is a park, the park commissioner should help. If it is a road or sewer or waterworks system, the officials of these systems should help. You have added wealth to your community that no depression can take away.


There may be a few things about any big program that we don't like. No matter how hard we try on any big job, something unexpected turns up. The only people who don't make mistakes are those who do nothing at all. The WPA is a great national enterprise to get something done. Mistakes may be made, but we can be sure the American people will not make the mistake of doing nothing.


It makes our work easier to tackle when we know "Why we have a WPA job?" "Why we have work instead of a dole?" "What good we are doing?"

The principles underlying WPA are principles that have made America great HARD WORK AND COMMON SENSE

Let's see where we stand with the rest of the workers:

  • At least a million former workers are unable to work because they are too old or sick or otherwise unemployable.
  • Several millions more are unemployed but have money or relatives or friends supporting them. They can get by for the present without private jobs.
  • But there are other millions, most of them with families or relatives they must help, who have neither jobs nor help of any kind. We belong to this group.
  • All the private jobs in the country are held by the rest of America's workers.

Why can't we get private jobs?

Some of the reasons why we are still looking for private jobs

  • Business Has Not yet Fully Recovered
  • Machines Take Our Places
  • Young Men and Women Just Out of School Make More Competition
  • The Unemployed Not yet on Relief Get the Jobs First
  • These things are beyond our control

This puts it up to Uncle Sam to do something.

Let's See What He Can Do

Uncle Sam Can:

  • Let Us Starve ... Not in This Man's Country
  • Give Us a Dole ... But Who Wants a Handout?
  • Let Us Work ... Which Is Every Man's Right

The Country Will Be Richer If We Build:

  • Roads
  • Schools
  • Airports
  • Sewer Systems
  • Water Systems
  • Parks
  • Playgrounds
  • Public Buildings
  • Libraries
  • Better Health

There are 3,000,000 of us:


What's the answer?

Before we answer let's look at the dole.

What happens to us when we are on the dole

  • We Lose Our Self Respect.
  • We Lose Our Skill.
  • We Have Family Rows.
  • We Loaf on Street Corners.
  • Finally, We Lose Hope.

Now let's look at what work does for us.



Uncle Sam sets up the WPA as the answer

For More Than 9 Months, We Have Been Working on WPA Projects

Wealth We Are Adding to Country:

  • 4,000 Drought, Flood, and Other Conservation Works.
  • 130,000 Miles of Farm-To-Market Roads.
  • 550 Airports Built or Improved.
  • 6,201 Schools Built or Improved.
  • 2,500 Water Systems Improved
  • 5,000 Sewer Systems Extended.
  • 5,700 Parks and Playgrounds
  • 5,000 Other Public Buildings.
  • Education for Millions.
  • Better Public Health.
  • Millions of Garments for the Needy and Other Public Services.

The good we are doing

Ask any of the hundreds of mayors and county executives, of all political faiths, who have written their praise of the improvements WPA has made in their own communities.


Where the WPA Dollar Goes

  • Food - Canning Factories - Farms
  • Food - Wholesalers - Fisheries
  • Shelter - Building Repairs - Mines
  • Shelter - Factories - Forests
  • Clothing - Manufactures - Textile Mills - Farms

Work is the American Way

Works Progress Administration, "Our Job with the WPA," US Government Printing Office, Publication No. 16-5482, 1936.


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WPA / Works Progress Administration
GG Archives

Brochures, Booklets, & Pamphlets


Farmers on Relief and Rehabilitation - WPA - 1937

Inventory: An Appraisal of Results of the Works Progress Administration - 1938

Rural Families on Relief - Research Monograph XVII - 1938

Rural Youth: Their Situation and Prospects - Research Monograph XV - 1938

Rural Youth - Their Situation and Prospects - Conclusions - 1938

New Deal for Youth - The National Youth Administration (NYA) - 1938

1935-05 The Drought and Current Farm Imports

1936-10-15 Report on Progress of The Works Program

Final Report on the WPA Program 1935-43

Handbook of Proceedures - 1937

Report on Progress of WPA Program - 1942

Other Information

WPA Reference Section