8. The SED refused to alter the work quotas despite criticism even within the party
During the second week of June 1953, the SED defended the work quotas in party-controlled media outlets. These included radio programs, newspapers, and magazines. Labor unions in the GDR, controlled by the SED, and their periodicals likewise endorsed the work quotas as economically essential for the welfare of the state. At the same time, several prominent members of the industrial and political communities condemned them as being anti-Marxist-Leninism. They pointed out the work quotas placed an undue burden on one group of the populace to the benefit of other groups. Ulbricht, with the initial support of the Soviets, refused to address the work quotas. In several East German industrial areas grumbling among the workers grew louder. Stasi infiltrated industries reported the unrest to their supervisors in East Berlin. The government took note, but at first no action.
On June 16, construction workers at sites in East Berlin walked off their jobs. About 900 workers marched to the Free German Trade Union Federation building, bearing signs demanding a reduction of the work quotas to their previous (1952) levels. Such a deduction represented approximately 10%. They then marched on government buildings, SED headquarters, and the city center. Their ranks swelled as they demonstrated, additional political demands were added to their chants. At least two trucks equipped with loudspeakers were confiscated and used to recruit others to their cause as they marched. Standing before the government headquarters they demanded Ulbricht appear to hear their complaints. He refused. They then called for a general strike the next day. As the crowd swelled outside their offices the East German Politburo debated the situation for several hours. Ultimately, they decided to revoke the mandatory work quotas, keeping them in place as voluntary.