Richard Nixon photo

Remarks on Signing the Employment Security Amendments of 1970

August 10, 1970

Ladies and gentlemen, members of the press:

This is an historic occasion for a number of reasons. This legislation I consider to be one of the most important pieces of legislation that has been enacted since this administration came into office. It couldn't have been enacted and signed today had it not been for bipartisan support, had it not also been due to the support of leaders of organized labor as as management.

The fact that members of the House and Senate Finance Committees and the Ways and Means Committees worked together made it possible for this historic piece of legislation to become law.

I should point out that in just 3 days we will celebrate the 35th anniversary of the unemployment insurance system. It was passed during the depth of the depression in 1935 and since that time has been extended on several occasions to many other workers.

In 1958 it was extended temporarily to a number of other workers and again in 1961. However, those extensions which were temporary, were to deal with the situation [of] possible unemployment in the future, and dealt with it too late and consequently, what we need now and what we have in this bill is a permanent extension of unemployment insurance to cover 4 1/2 million additional workers.

This will bring the total in the United States of workers covered by unemployment insurance to 63,500,000.

I should point out, too, that as we pass this legislation and as it becomes law it, of course, will require the cooperation of the States. The Secretary of Labor will be meeting with the Governors of the States at the Governors' Conference later today urging them to act at the State level so that they may cooperate with the Federal Government in seeing that this extension becomes active all over the States of the Union.

The final point I would like to make is one that I know all the members of the committees and those others present at this ceremony will think is quite valid on this occasion.

We are moving from a wartime to a peacetime economy. As all of us know, we've had over 800,000 men either released from the Armed Forces as a result of reduction of our Armed Forces, part of that due to the reduction of our forces in Vietnam, and also the reduction of force of people working in defense plants.

This total of 800,000 will be absorbed in the American work force, in the private sector, and also in some Government activities. I think all of us certainly approve of the fact that we are moving Americans away from activities that have to do with war and into those activities that have to do with peace.

But in that transition period it is essential that Government provide, as this bill helps to provide, that cushion that is so essential, so essential in the period when men through no fault of their own move either from the armed services or from defense plants and are looking for work in that period.

I want to express my appreciation to the members of the committee, Democrats and Republicans, who have made it possible for this historic piece of legislation to be passed.

One other historical and personal note I'd like to make at this point, and I think all of the members of the committee regardless of partisanship will share my feelings on this occasion: I recall just 10 years ago, in fact, a little over 10 years ago in the spring of 1960, that the late James Mitchell, who was then Secretary of Labor, strongly urged that there be this permanent extension of unemployment insurance coverage. He fought for it within the administration. He was unsuccessful in getting that extension at that time.

While this comes now in 1970, 10 years later, it is the realization not only of a dream that he had and a program that he strongly favored but one that was also strongly favored by every Secretary of Labor, be they in Democratic or Republican administrations since that time.

Thank you very much.

[As the President presented signing pens to Members of Congress and others present for the ceremony, he continued speaking:]

Who's the lowest ranking Senate man?


THE PRESIDENT. You are? Fine.

I do that with great feeling because I was the lowest man, as I have said often to many of you here, the lowest man on the Labor Committee in the 80th Congress. John Kennedy was the lowest ranking member on the Democratic side. So don't be discouraged.

We also have pens for all of the rest of you, too.

Note: The President spoke at 11:09 a.m. in the Blue Room at the White House.

As enacted, the bill (H.R. 14705) is Public Law 91-373 (84 Stat. 695).

Richard Nixon, Remarks on Signing the Employment Security Amendments of 1970 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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