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Letter to Chairmen and Ranking Minority Members of the Senate and House Labor Committees About Pending Minimum Wage Legislation

February 27, 1974

I AM writing to you with regard to the need for enacting a responsible minimum wage bill during this session of the Congress.

The minimum wage for most workers has now been at the same level for six years, and there can be no doubt that it should be higher. I have consistently urged appropriate increases, starting with legislative recommendations in 1971 and most recently in my State of the Union message last month. Yet, in amending the minimum wage, we must avoid hurting the many low wage workers we are trying to help. This was my concern when I vetoed H.R. 7935 last fall.

Last week, Committees of both Houses of Congress began work on new minimum wage legislation. In the House, the initial actions showed a desire to phase in increases in the minimum wage in a way which should reduce the inflationary and disemployment impact that last year's bill would have had. I am particularly encouraged by the House Sub-committee action in making some changes to help expand student employment opportunities.

There is one area of new coverage which is of special concern to me. The disemployment effects on domestic workers could be very acute if there are no practical limits on coverage and their minimum wage is put at too high a level.

'The adoption of a meaningful hours worked test, especially when coupled with a delay in the increase in subsequent steps of the minimum wage, would help to ameliorate the disemployment effects that would result from covering domestic workers. However, the initial tests proposed in the House and Senate bills are so broad that they may not have their intended effect.

The extension of the Federal minimum wage and overtime requirements to State and local Government employees is also a problem. I appreciate the fact that the House bill under consideration tries to avoid undue interference in the operations of these Governments by exempting police and firemen from the overtime requirements. However, I continue to agree with the Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations that, in general, additional Federal requirements affecting the relationship between these governments and their employees is an unnecessary interference with their prerogatives. The available evidence has failed to convince me that these governments are not acting responsibly in setting their wage and salary rates to meet local conditions. Additionally, if the Congress desires to make the minimum wage and overtime laws applicable to Federal employees, who are already adequately protected by other laws, it should place enforcement responsibility in the Civil Service Commission, which has the responsibility under the other laws.

The high rate of unemployment among youth and the related difficulty of too few work and training opportunities remain difficult problems. They will be aggravated by the temporary increase in unemployment resulting from the energy shortage. Within the Administration we are considering a range of proposals within the broad authorities existing in several agencies to enhance both training and work opportunities for youth. Nevertheless, I believe the most important means for preservation and expansion of work and training opportunities for young people would be the special youth differential in the minimum wage which we first proposed in May of 1871.

With a view toward additional ways to aid youth, I note that the House has shown its concern by changing the tests for special minimum wage certificates for part-time work by full-time students. This, however, does nothing for the young person no longer going to school who perhaps needs even greater help toward meaningful participation in the work force.

While I am prepared to accept a minimum wage bill that contains responsible provisions for the adult population, I believe it should be clear that such a bill, without any youth differential provision, is a vote for higher youth unemployment. Therefore I shall continue to urge the enactment of a meaningful youth differential provision in legislative action this year.

With every good wish,



Note: This is the text of identical letters addressed to the Honorable Harrison A. Williams, Jr., and Jacob K. Javits, chairman and ranking Republican member, respectively, of the Senate Labor and Public Welfare Committee; and to the Honorable Carl D. Perkins and Albert H. Quie, chairman and ranking Republican member, respectively, of the House Education and Labor Committee.

On February 27, 1974, the President met with Secretary of Labor Peter J. Brennan and Under Secretary of Labor Richard F. Schubert to discuss minimum wage and unemployment compensation legislation pending before the Congress. On the same day, the White House released the transcript of a news briefing on the meeting by Secretary Brennan and Under Secretary Schubert.

Richard Nixon, Letter to Chairmen and Ranking Minority Members of the Senate and House Labor Committees About Pending Minimum Wage Legislation Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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