John F. Kennedy photo

Remarks to Members of the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of North America.

May 16, 1963

Pat, ladies and gentlemen:

We want to express a very warm welcome to you at the White House. I think it is most appropriate that you should visit here. While we are in residence temporarily, this house belongs to all of the American people, and I think it symbolizes some of the best of our history. Some of you who may be Democrats will be interested to know that those trees back there were planted by one of our most distinguished Democratic Presidents, Andrew Jackson. This house and these grounds--and I hope you have a chance to look through the house--are filled with recollections of great moments in American history.

I am delighted to have you here because you and I together are attempting in the 1960's to make it possible for our country to meet its responsibilities to our citizens at home and abroad and also to make it possible for those who come after us to be the beneficiaries of our actions. Now this is a difficult task and it always is. Nothing which is important, nothing which is progressive, nothing which is new is ever accepted by those who look back to the past, who wish to stand still, who oppose every program which seeks to improve the lot of our people, but we have to go ahead and, therefore, I value your support.

What we are attempting to do is to provide for a legislative program plus monetary and fiscal policy which will prevent the recurring recessions which particularly marked our economic life at the end of the fifties, the recession of 1958, a recession 2 years later in 1960; all these put pressure upon the working men and women of this country. It puts pressures on the trade unions; it makes it more difficult to negotiate and bargain collectively.

When you have a pool of 5 million people out of work, looking for jobs, it has a depressing effect upon the entire labor market and, therefore, a depressing effect upon our economy.

Therefore, since we have been here, we have attempted to put forward proposals dealing with minimum wage, and assistance to children, and doubling the amount of food which nearly 6 million Americans in this rich country of ours must depend on every month to live, and trying to change our tax structure so that the economy is stimulated so that there will be more jobs. We have been able to move through the period from January 1961 to today without a recession, and with the prospects moving ahead--if we are able to carry out our program for a very good year in 1963.

So that we want you to know that while the battles may be somewhat quieter in Washington in some ways than they might have been in the early thirties, nevertheless what we are trying to do is to carry on the concept of the Federal Government meeting its responsibilities to keep this economy of ours moving ahead. And that is what we are attempting to do. That is what we are trying to get through the Congress, and we win or lose by 3 or 4 or 5 votes.

Now everything that we do there, everything we are able to do down here has a direct impact on your membership. Your people work when this country is prosperous. Your people get paid well when this country is prosperous. If your people go out of work, your people aren't paid as well when the economy is on the downturn. So we are going to do everything we can to keep it on the upturn. But we need the support of your membership and of you and others in the trade union movement who, in the last 30 years, have supported progressive policies and who can look back on 30 years of struggle and find their judgment justified in the things that they supported at home and abroad that really made it possible for us to live as we have lived in the last 15 years.

So I am very glad to have you here. We have got a lot of unfinished business in this country--North, South, East, and West-and we can accomplish the job that we have before us, not just those of us who happen to sit here or in the Congress, but all of us working together. So I am delighted to have you here this morning.

Note: The President spoke at 10 a.m. in the Flower Garden at the White House. His opening word "Pat" referred to Patrick E. Gorman, international secretary-treasurer of the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of North America.

John F. Kennedy, Remarks to Members of the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of North America. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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