I AM today signing S.2747, the Fair Labor Standards Amendments of 1974.
Although I have some reservations about portions of this legislation, its basic purpose--to increase the minimum wage for working men and women of this country-deserves the support of all Americans.
The federally legislated minimum wage for most American workers has remained static for 6 years despite a number of increases in the cost of living. Raising the minimum wage is now a matter of justice that can no longer be fairly delayed.
This bill would raise the minimum wage for most workers from $ 1.60 to $2.00 next month, with a further increase to $2.30 by January 1, 1976--a total increase of more than 40 percent. It would also extend the protection of Federal minimum wage and overtime requirements to 7.4 million additional workers.
Over the past several years, I have consistently supported responsible increases in minimum wage rates, to be phased in so that the very people such increases are intended to help do not find themselves suddenly priced out of the job market. I am pleased that the Congress has moved in this .direction in S. 2747. Following the first increase next month, future increases will be spread out over a period of time and will therefore have less of an adverse effect on the job market for unskilled labor. They will also pose less of an inflationary threat to all Americans.
S. 2747 also extends coverage to include Federal, State, and local government employees, domestic workers, and others previously excluded from coverage. The Congress has reduced some of the economic and social disruptions this extension could cause by recognizing the unique requirements of police, fire, and correctional services. Similarly, within the Administration, we will do our utmost to administer the overlapping rules which will now apply to Federal overtime.
As I have stated before, acceptable minimum wage legislation should also contain a special youth differential to protect our young people, who continue to suffer a high rate of unemployment and face more limited work and training opportunities than adults. Although S. 2747 does change the tests for special minimum wage certificates for part-time work by full-time students and permits pilot programs in selected areas for out-of-school youth, I regret that the Congress did not go as far as I wished in protecting both training and work opportunities for youth.
In addition, the extension of coverage creates some unemployment risks, especially for domestic workers, but these risks must be accepted in view of the other achievements of this bill.
On the whole then, S. 2747 contains more good than bad, and I have concluded that the best interests of the American people will be served by signing it into law.
The signing of this measure is also an appropriate occasion to commend Secretary Brennan for his efforts in working with Congress to ensure the enactment of legislation benefiting the working men and women of our Nation. This measure is the second major bill in recent months in which the Department of Labor has played an important role in the process of enactment and for which it assumes administrative responsibility. The first bill, the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act of 1973, is now being put into effect by the Department of Labor; I urge that the Congress move speedily in appropriating the necessary funds so that the worthy purposes of this act can be achieved promptly.
It is also my hope that the Congress will respond favorably to the Administration's proposals for improving the pension system and the unemployment insurance system of our Nation. Our proposals in both of these areas are important features of our labor market and economic policy.