My Grandfather, the Great Depression, and Today’s Teacher Wage Theft

My grandfather, Joe Tagler, was victimized with wage theft during the Great Depression. He was a motorman (driver) of streetcars for the Chicago Surface Lines, later to be taken over by the CTA, the Chicago Transit Authority. He was hired on an hourly basis when needed; that is how it was done for all of their motormen and conductors. Few people had or could afford phones. Motormen worked whatever times they were present in the car-barns, depots; they sat on benches awaiting orders for work. Three hours of work here, four hours there (split shifts), day after day and night after night sitting and waiting for his name to be called.

He learned to sleep sitting up on the benches waiting for work. He took sponge baths, changed shirts and used the restrooms in the depot along with all the other men awaiting a call to work. The motorman’s streetcar windshield was generally open to all the elements no matter how hot or cold, yet he was expected to wear only the uniform he purchased from the company. If he looked too shabby, he was sent home to change. He went home every few days to sleep a bit longer and clean himself and his uniform a little better. He slept.


On paydays he stood in line at a counter with the other motormen and was handed a paycheck with only the backside showing and told to sign and endorse it for cash. He was then handed cash. The records were kept to be handed over to the city authorities to show that the contract given by the city was being lawfully carried out. (The IRS did not collect taxes on such low wage jobs at that time.)

One day he turned the check over to see the amount is was made out for. It was for more cash than he had ever received. After he endorsed the check and handed it back to the man, the clerk at the counter handed him cash – a smaller amount than he had seen printed on his check. My grandfather complained; the clerk told him he had not seen the correct amount and could not return the endorsed check to him.

As he left the line, one of the foremen told him that he may as well go home for a few days. He had broken an unwritten rule. Many people, from the clerk at the window to the foreman to all the “higher-ups,” were entitled to their share of my grandfather’s paycheck. He was not called to work for a week in spite of spending hours and days waiting at the 69th and Ashland car-barn he was assigned to.

streetcar 63rd Damen

At that time in his life, he was the sole support for his wife and four children, his mother-in-law, his brother-in-law, and his two sisters-in-law along with their husbands and two children. Hard times had gradually forced them all to live together in a very small six room house in Chicago. Fourteen people counted on my grandfather’s income to survive. It was a very tough time that he and they remembered all of their lives.

I am incapable of telling that story in the manner that my grandmother told it to me.

Personally knowing all of those relatives in later years, at their own various stages of life, made me realize why they too loved my grandfather each in his or her own way. I loved and respected him for entirely different reasons. He was a great man.


Today, the elected officials in state after state mandate that public school teachers pay into pension systems that these same legislators claim are unsustainable, assured of not being there when the teachers retire. Some of these teachers are forced to be part of the pension system and part of approved 401k programs where the private funds take up-front money from teacher wages in the form of teacher and/or state paid handling charges, annual fees and various other profits for themselves and the connected “higher-ups” who are running this theft.

Even retired teachers are being robbed of portions of their deferred earnings, pensions, by the same lawmaking legislators who redirected (plundered) the money contractually agreed upon by law. Since the laws are honored, ignored or rewritten by these same lawmakers, this has become a moot fact to many legislators and governors. Read about some of the details HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE. Pick a state or major city; Google public pension funds and see how widespread this non-party affiliated teacher wage theft has spread.

(Today, all public employee pension funds are under the same assault.)

Yes, the lawmakers are the key component in wage theft against teachers nationwide – in the wealthiest country in the world with record high profits in the stock market and corporations who share in the teacher wages and pension plunder via hedge fund managers, bond salespeople, investors, CEOs and all the “higher-ups.”

Wage theft will end when the two party system of graft and corruption ends. Votes for third party, pro-teacher, pro-pension candidates must be created and supported by those who know that this behavior must end. It won’t be easy, and it won’t be soon. Jailing a few of the gerrymandered thieves in sheep’s clothing would help. The last two governors in Illinois were jailed, and Quinn might, hopefully, join them. New Jersey could use a jailed governor as well. Feel free to add to the list.

Gram and Gramps

By the way, let me present you to the finest grandparents in the world,

Joe and Anna Mae Tagler.


About Ken Previti
This entry was posted in betrayal, corruption, fairness, government, greed, pensions, propaganda, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to My Grandfather, the Great Depression, and Today’s Teacher Wage Theft

  1. Pingback: Ken Previti. My Grandfather, the Great Depression, and today’s teacher wage theft. | Fred Klonsky

  2. Sig Lisowski says:

    A moving recount of what it means to be a responsible caring individual and what family really is. None of these concepts are understood by today’s politicos they are buzz words only to be used to manipulate the potential voter.

  3. Bob Serody says:

    My wife and I recently discussed what the highest priority should be for the country to correct, and we decided on measures to reverse climate change, since it won’t be that long before all the major cities will be flooded by the Earth’s rising seas. After reading this article about the motorman in the depression concerning wage theft, I’m changing my vote. It’s time for our country to correct this travesty of justice first.
    Bob Serody

    • Ken Previti says:

      Thank you. It is important to survive beyond the next paycheck in order to fight wrongs and help to find solutions for larger problems. Often, people discuss wage theft as applying only to fast food workers and immigrants; wage theft is bigger, wider and more insidious than media reports divulge.

  4. Jim Barrett says:

    Your grandfather and others like him (one of mine was a stone cutter, the other a fireman) built this country and its teachers are in an even more vital position in terms of the future of our society. It is invariably rich people like those in the Civic Federation that urge more “sacrifices” on the part of teachers and other working people. When does their turn come?

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