The Unemployed Labor and Commodity Exchange, Inc. was one of two similar sounding barter organizations that opened in February 1933. (The Commodity Exchange, Inc. was the other.)
The ULCE was founded by Dalton Clarke, a hosiery salesman, and five unemployed craftsman. Members were paid in scrip for crops or goods brought into the exchange and appraised. A schedule of rates for labor and services was created also.
The scrip was issued in denominations of $.05, $.10, $.25, $.50, $1.00, $5.00 and $10.00.
By mid-March the ULCE had signed up 6,000 members. Among its ranks were doctors, attorneys, laborers, artists, landlords and a movie theater. It established a large warehouse for housing goods and arranged for its members to use idle machinery for manufacturing.
Both barter exchanges had their detractors. Like the Commodity Exchange, the ULCE was accused of violating Wisconsin law which prohibited corporations from issuing money or money-like instruments. The ULCE modified its scrip by stamping it with the notation “This is a CREDIT UNIT and NOT MONEY”. Examples with and without this stamp are known.
The activities of the ULCE came under the scrutiny of William A. Zabel, the Milwaukee County District Attorney. A painter complained that he was paid in ULCE scrip for a job but when he tried to purchase a pair of shoes from the ULCE he was required to pay half in cash and half in scrip. The District Attorney alleged this violated Wisconsin law concerning trading stamps.
The ULCE denied they were violating the law. The painter tried to order shoes from one of their manufacturing facilities not from the exchange store. The manufacturing facility had to be paid part in cash in order to pay for the materials. The ULCE referred the matter to the Wisconsin Attorney General who found no violation and further determined that there was no state agency responsible for regulating these types of operations.
FUN FACT: Dalton Clarke, the founder of the ULCE was the maternal grandfather of Jim Morrison of the Doors.