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Memorandum of Disapproval of Bill Concerning Wage Rates at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

July 12, 1960

I AM withholding my approval from S. 19, "To provide a method for regulating and fixing wage rates for employees of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Naval Shipyard."

My reasons for disapproving an identical enactment of the 85th Congress still apply. This bill, like its predecessor, strikes at the heart of the statutory principle that rates of pay for 673,000 federal wage board employees shall conform, as nearly as is consistent with the public interest, with private rates of pay in the immediate vicinity of the particular federal activity.

This principle is sound. It insures federal employees a fair wage. It insures against the payment of unwarranted hourly rates by the Government. And it insures that federal rates of pay will not upset the economy of the community in which the federal establishment is located.

S. 19 would disregard this principle by providing that hourly rates for Portsmouth Naval Shipyard employees should be based on those which obtain, not in Portsmouth, but rather in the Boston industrial complex, 60 miles distant. Private industrial rates are substantially higher in Boston than in Portsmouth--and therein lies the explanation of the bill.

But why should the Government pay a much higher hourly wage rate than do fair-minded private employers in the Portsmouth area? If the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard were a private establishment, there would be no question of a differential. The going rate for the area would be paid. But because the Government is the employer, and just because it is, there is apparently an expectation that the Government should pay more than these hourly employees in fairness and equity have a right to expect. further, it is seemingly of little or no concern that in so doing the Government would be departing from sound principle and business practice and would be unsettling the economy of the Portsmouth community.

This kind of legislation--this expectation of something-for-nothing from the Government just because it is the Government--weakens our national fabric and with each occurrence leaves it more seriously impaired. The spread of this expectation, and its reflection in an increase of such legislation, are profoundly disturbing for the future of America.

In this one instance, for example, S. 19 as a law would provide a ready precedent for the eventual dissolution of the wage board principle and system. The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in no way presents an unusual situation. Several federal establishments, less distant from Boston than Portsmouth, have lower pay scales than those of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

By no rationale can this bill be justified. Wage disparities exist throughout the United States but under the wage board principle the Government pays the fair and equitable hourly rates of the particular area in which it finds itself--and so it should.

For these reasons I am unable to approve the bill.


Note: The memorandum was released at the U.S. Naval Base, Newport, R.I.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Memorandum of Disapproval of Bill Concerning Wage Rates at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/235064

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