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Letter to Committee Chairmen on the Need for a Pay Increase for Federal Employees.

July 12, 1951

[Released July 12, 1951. Dated July 11, 1951]


The House and Senate Post Office and Civil Service Committees now have under consideration legislation to adjust the compensation of Federal employees. I am writing you to urge that favorable action be taken on this legislation at this session of the Congress.

As a matter of public policy, the Federal Government should maintain fair and equitable compensation and working conditions for its own employees. Aside from equitable considerations, the present emergency demands prompt and adequate adjustment of federal compensation levels as a practical matter so that the government may continue to attract and retain skilled employees of the highest competence.

There are many factors which must be considered in establishing scales of compensation for federal employees. One of the most important is the relationships in the pay rates for the various grades of positions. Federal pay scales in the higher grades tend to be too low in relation to the lower grades for the type of executive responsibilities required. Steps were taken to correct this situation by enactment of the Classification Act of 1949. I consider it vital, as a matter of sound business practice that these gains be retained. Therefore, I urge most strongly that any increase enacted be on an across-the board percentage basis rather than on a uniform dollar or sliding scale basis, so that disproportionately lower adjustments for the middle and upper grades may be avoided.

Detailed studies by the Civil Service Commission and the Bureau of the Budget indicate that a 7 percent across-the-board increase would constitute a fair and reasonable adjustment in Classification Act compensation scales at the present time.

Employees in the postal service should receive the same general rate of increase as Classification Act employees. Two additional changes appear to be desirable with respect to pay schedules in the postal service. First, I recommend legislation which would permit the Postmaster General to employ substitute postal workers initially at Grade 3 instead of Grade 1 to bring the pay of these workers in line with prevailing rates of pay. Second, certain inequities existing in the pay rates for the supervisory grades should be eliminated.

Under the present laws, many of our Federal employees not covered by the Classification Act or included in the postal service are paid in accordance with scales prevailing in the communities in which they are employed, and their pay levels have already generally been adjusted to pay levels for private employment. No legislative adjustment is required for this group.

I know that your committee is fully cognizant of the fine work being done by our Civil Service employees. I wish to take this opportunity, however, to say as I have said before, that the nation is fortunate in having a loyal, hard-working, conscientious Civil Service, without which it would be impossible to accomplish the tremendous tasks of the present emergency. I am sure that you will want to join with me in taking this step toward seeing that the Civil Service is maintained at a high level of competence and effectiveness.

Very sincerely yours,


Note: This is the text of identical letters addressed to the Honorable Olin D. Johnston, Chairman of the Senate Post Office and Civil Service Committee, and to the Honorable Tom Murray, Chairman of the House Post Office and Civil Service Committee.

On October 24, 1951, the President approved two hills increasing the salaries of civil service and postal workers (Public Laws 201 and 204, 82d Cong., 65 Stat. 612, 622).

Harry S. Truman, Letter to Committee Chairmen on the Need for a Pay Increase for Federal Employees. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/230352

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