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Paul Coates

February 22, 2008 |  4:33 pm

Feb. 22, 1958

Paul_coates A hungry man is an angry man. He has no patience with puttering systems of bureaucracy.

And today, judging from the state unemployment reports, there are about 150,000 impatient men in Los Angeles. Men and women, I should say. Many of them with families to feed and clothe.

For the past half-year, there's been a rumble of discontent among them.

But since this week's case of Tom Garrett, it's reached proportions of a roar.

They're mad--damned mad--at our unemployment laws, at the red tape wound into them, and at the underlings who administer them.

Following my Tuesday column about the state employment department's refusal to pay Garrett his $40 weekly unemployment insurance because he was held hostage by two escaped criminals and therefore "not available for work," complains against the unemployment pay setup haven't stopped.

While I haven't had time to check out a lot of them, most of them came from persons who sounded pretty reasonable.

There were complaints which indicated that there are a few rather sadistic persons working in our state employment offices.

There were lots of cases where the individual obviously had a moral right to draw his check, but because of technicalities in our law, he wasn't able to.

There was the man who lost his weekly payment because he had to go to the dentist.

There was the woman who spent a day attending the funeral of her infant child and failed to report to the clerk that she hadn't been available for work that day.

As a result, I'm told, her checks were suspended for five weeks.

There were other cases of lost records, misfiled checks, unreasonable bullying and plain "grudge" actions on the part of employees--all resulting in some pretty severe hardships for various applicants.

I received some extremely bitter letters this week. Too many to permit me to disregard all of them as the work of disgruntled cranks.

Among comments about various state employment offices were:

"Why must we be stomped on, degraded and made to feel like we are on charity just because an aircraft company's production line fell off and we found ourselves without a job?''

"Although there was nothing in the house to eat, the humiliation I endured to pull a few dollars from the employment office (dollars rightfully mine) was more than I could take. I'd rather starve than go back, and I guess that's exactly what they were hoping for."


Los Angeles Examiner Negatives Collection in the the Regional History Collection of USC Libraries

The Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants on opening day at the Coliseum, April 18, 1958, from "Mobsters, Molls, and Mayhem: A Year in the Life of Los Angeles" at the Doheny Library.


The day is here when there are an awful lot of persons sincerely in need and in search of a job. Many are people who never before had to hold out their hands for assistance.

I realize that state employment offices have to be on guard continually against a small percentage of professional goldbricks, but I don't think that's a just excuse to mistreat and degrade others who file for unemployment insurance.

I'm also certain that the majority of those employed in the offices are conscientious and courteous workers. In my rounds as a reporter, I've run into some really fine and dedicated persons.

I certainly don't want to lay any blame on them.

But when the complaints stack up like they have during the last few days, I can only conclude that something is very, very wrong.

If a man like Tom Garrett can't collect unemployment insurance because he was held hostage, obviously part of the fault is in the law itself.

The other part seems to be divided between the inefficiency and indifference of certain employees and the impatience and pride of those who must submit to it.

And frankly, I find it hard to blame a hungry man for being impatient.