Controlling Oregon's economy for the war effort
While conservation of food and other war necessities helped, national and state leaders saw the need to institute additional controls on the economy to further the war effort. The State Council of Defense for Oregon responded with both legal requirements and the public appeals to make the economy more efficient and focused. Two of its departments illustrate the thrust of the efforts.
Department of Commercial Economy
During the peacetime economy, commercial businesses had developed a liberal system for deliveries and exchanges of goods for consumers. Often, businesses would send deliveries out several times a day on multiple routes. Special deliveries were frequently free. And lenient return and exchange policies meant that some consumers would abuse the system by ordering and trying out products or clothing without the intention of purchasing them. While not causing problems before the war, officials saw it as a drain on labor resources that could be better used elsewhere. Thus, the department started a campaign to encourage businesses and consumers to limit their practices. Businesses were asked to adopt the following economies:
1.) One delivery per day per route
In a way that modern businesses and consumers would find intrusive, the defense council took a very serious stance on implementing efficiencies in the economy. It backed its resolve with the following policy on merchandise exchanges.
Yet Oregonians responded and stores reported substantial savings. Large department stores were able to eliminate the need for a credit and exchange desk. And many businesses actually exceeded the defense council's expectations. For example, merchants in Eugene stopped making deliveries entirely. And, merchants in Falls City and Albany planned to follow suit.
The department also sought other limits on commercial businesses. Citing a lack of 12,000 skilled and unskilled laborers, the department noted: "We are moved, therefore, to ask in all seriousness for a readjustment in all nonessential industries and vocations as will release...the maximum man-power of our State." The goal was twofold:
1.) Merchandisers generally should close at 6 p.m.
The second goal echoed the prevailing opinion of society: "Men are needed for productive labor. They must be reserved for such work and not drawn therefrom to do nonessentials." The success of the endeavor, reminded the department, rested "entirely upon the patriotism and cooperation of the citizens of the state to carry out in letter and in spirit the purpose sought."
Building Permit Department
Local dealers of building materials were required to sign a pledge that no building materials would be furnished to projects lacking a government permit. Two exemptions were allowed:
1.) Repairs or extensions of no more than $2,500 to existing buildings
if no other government permit were required.
All other non-governmental construction projects were required to apply to the Building Permit Department for a permit to proceed. Oregonians wishing to build needed to file an application and swear to its accuracy. It then fell to each county chairman of the State Council of Defense for Oregon to decide on individual permits. Among other things, he was to reject the application "if the labor and materials are such as could be utilized in some other way to help toward winning the war, and there is no real necessity for the work going ahead at this time...." Approved applications required the county chairman to write a report giving reasons for the approval. All of the paperwork was forwarded to the state defense council and, if approved there, was sent to Washington D.C. where a permit would be issued. Wartime did, indeed, breed bureaucracy in the building industry!
Also partially based on the potential for disruptive action by labor unions such as the IWW, the federal government created the Loyal Legion of Loggers and Lumbermen. Billed as an employer-employee union, it put thousands of men to work. Members were required to pledge to help the nation to produce war materials and, most importantly, to pledge not to strike. Meanwhile, the government set up the Emergency Fleet Corporation to contract with shipyards in Portland, Astoria, Tillamook, and Marshfield to produce both steel and wooden hull ships for the war.