Mr. Keenan, Secretary Wirtz, General O'Brien, the distinguished Chairman and Members of the House committee who worked so long and effectively to bring about passage of these amendments, my friend Senator Yarborough, members of the AFL-C I O , ladies and gentlemen:
To me this is another D-day in our fight to help those that are in need.
Twenty-eight years ago, as a young congressman, I worked to get the first minimum wage law passed. I was brought into that effort by Mr. David Dubinsky, who is represented here today, and by other members of the AFL-CIO.
The thing that I particularly want to mention is then, as now, most of the enlightened members of organized labor have never been personally affected by the minimum wage laws. As a result of their bargaining, they have all, generally speaking, been above the minimum levels. But union after union and leader after leader in the workers' movement in this country have spent time to see that their colleagues and their fellow workers had the benefits of this legislation.
It is my humble pride as President to see that this declaration of decency has been made real in millions of lives and homes-for as we meet here this afternoon, a new minimum wage has become effective in this country. It will mean a great deal to a great many people--none of whom are here. It will help them to carry on.
Eight million workers, as Mr. Keenan has told you, have new benefits this afternoon-for the first time since the act was passed 28 years ago.
One million more workers are going to get benefits next year.
The minimum rate for most workers-those 30 million previously covered--becomes, today, $1.40 an hour. This still means less, for a year's work, than what we count as a poverty wage. But this brings minimum wages closer in line with minimum decencies than they have ever been before.
An additional billion dollars will go, this year, into those pay envelopes where it is needed most--and this will be for services rendered, for work performed.
If this means very small increases in prices--that we have heard a good deal about--and in costs--and I believe it does mean increases in both--the American people will accept this as a better answer than denying human beings a decent wage.
These are the workers that you rarely see, the workers that we all too often forget to acknowledge. They are the workers that make life a little more complete for everyone of us, every day. They are the charwomen who dean our rooms after we are gone in the evening, through the night. They are the people who make our beds after we leave in the morning. They are the waitresses who get up early to give us coffee before we go to work, the hotel and the motel employees, the hospital service employees, the laundry workers that clean our clothes, the workers in the apparel trades that try to make us look presentable. And, for the first time, the farmworkers--several hundred thousand of them.
They are not here in the White House this afternoon, but those who have worked for them and fought for them are--the Members of Congress who could hear their voices and heeded their plea, the leaders of the workers in this country who had done much to help the people of their own union, but decided to do something to help all people.
This is a great day for America. America is entitled to the feeling that it has done something very right and something very good.
I shall never forget a breakfast I had at a very dark period in the life of this bill
over in the Mansion several months ago when Mr. George Meany and Mr. David Dubinsky and several of us were talking about the problems we faced.
Well, those hurdles have been overcome. What was a hope yesterday is now today a reality--and some 9 million will benefit from it. Just knowing that gives you a great deal of satisfaction that can never come to you from any paycheck.
So to you leaders of labor, particularly Secretary Wirtz who testified so long and so eloquently and so effectively, to you Members who heard him, all of you, in behalf of these workers, I say thank you for your efforts.