John F. Kennedy photo

Remarks Upon Signing the Minimum Wage Bill

May 05, 1961

I want to express my great satisfaction in signing the bill to increase the minimum wage to a dollar twenty-five cents an hour, and to extend the coverage to three million, six hundred thousand people today who are not covered by this most important piece of national legislation.

This is the first time since the act came into existence under the administration of President Franklin Roosevelt in 1938 that we have been able to expand the coverage. I don't believe that there's any American who believes that any man or woman should have to work in interstate commerce, in companies of substantial size, for less than a dollar twenty-five cents an hour, or fifty dollars a week. That itself is a very minimum wage, and I therefore want to commend the Members of the Congress in the House and the Senate, the Chairmen of the Subcommittees who were particularly involved, under the leadership of the House and Senate, for their untiring efforts.

I also want to commend the leaders of organized labor, the AFL-CIO, who are here today with Mr. Meany, for their long interest. Every member, pretty much, of their unions is paid more than a dollar and a quarter, but they have been concerned about unorganized workers who have been at the bottom of the economic ladder who have not benefited from our growing prosperity in this country as a nation over the long number of years and who need our help.

This doesn't finish this job, but it is a most important step forward, and as a former Member of the Senate who is particularly interested in it, I must say that I am delighted to sign it. I congratulate those who worked for it. They are one group of our citizens who deserve our assistance more, and I think that we can move from this improvement into greater gains in the months and years to come.

Note: The bill, entitled "Fair Labor Standards Amendments of 1961," is Public Law 87-30 (75 Stat. 65).

John F. Kennedy, Remarks Upon Signing the Minimum Wage Bill Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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