Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Special Message to the Congress - "To Earn a Living: The Right of Every American.

January 23, 1968

To the Congress of the United States:

In this, my first message to the Congress following the State of the Union Address, I propose:

--A $2.1 billion manpower program, the largest in the Nation's history, to help Americans who want to work get a job.

--The Nation's first comprehensive Occupational Health and Safety Program, to protect the worker while he is on the job.


Twenty years ago, after a cycle of depression, recovery and war, America faced an historic question: Could we launch what President Truman called "a positive attack upon the ever-recurring problems of mass unemployment and ruinous depression"?

That was the goal of the Employment Act of 1946. The answer was a long time in forming. But today there is no longer any doubt.

We can see the answer in the record of seven years of unbroken prosperity.

We can see it in this picture of America today:

75 million of our people are working--in jobs that are better paying and more secure than ever before.

Seven and a half million new jobs have been created in the last four years, more than 5,000 every day. This year will see that number increased by more than 1 l/2 million.

In that same period, the unemployment rate has dropped from 5.7 percent to 3.8 percent--the lowest in more than a decade.

The question for our day is this: in an economy capable of sustaining high employment, how can we assure every American, who is willing to work, the right to earn a living?

We have always paid lip service to that right.

But there are many Americans for whom the right has never been real:

--The boy who becomes a man without developing the ability to earn a living.

--The citizen who is barred from a job because of other men's prejudices.

--The worker who loses his job to a machine, and is told he is too old for anything else.

--The boy or girl from the slums whose summers are empty because there is nothing to do.

--The man and the woman blocked from productive employment by barriers rooted in poverty: lack of health, lack of education, lack of training, lack of motivation. Their idleness is a tragic waste both of the human spirit and of the economic resources of a great Nation.

It is a waste that an enlightened Nation should not tolerate. It is a waste that a Nation concerned by disorders in its city streets cannot tolerate.

This Nation has already begun to attack that waste.

In the years that we have been building our unprecedented prosperity, we have also begun to build a network of manpower programs designed to meet and match individual needs with individual opportunities.


Until just a few years ago, our efforts consisted primarily of maintaining employment offices throughout the country and promoting apprenticeship training.

The Manpower Development Training Act, passed in 1962, was designed to equip the worker with new skills when his old skills were outdistanced by technology. That program was greatly strengthened and expanded in 1963, 1965 and again in 1966 to serve the disadvantaged as wall. In fiscal 1969, it will help over 275,000 citizens.

Our manpower network grew as the Nation launched its historic effort to conquer poverty:

--The Job Corps gives young people from the poorest families education and training they need to prepare for lives as productive and self-supporting citizens. In fiscal 1969 the Job Corps will help almost 100,000 children of the poor.

--The Neighborhood Youth Corps enables other poor youngsters to serve their community and themselves at the same time. Last year the Congress expanded the program to include adults as well. In fiscal 1969, the Neighborhood Youth Corps will help over 560,000 citizens.

--Others, such as Work Experience, New Careers, Operation Mainstream, and the Work Incentive Program, are directed toward the employment problems of poor adults. In fiscal 1969, 150,000 Americans will receive the benefits of training through these programs. These are pioneering efforts. They all work in different ways. Some provide for training alone. Others combine training with work. Some are full-time. Others are part-time.

One way to measure the scope of these programs is to consider how many men and women have been helped:

--In fiscal 1963: 75,000.

--In fiscal 1967: more than 1 million.

But the real meaning of these figures is found in the quiet accounts of lives that have been changed:

--In Oregon, a seasonal farm worker was struggling to sustain his eight children on $46 a week. Then he received on-the-job training as a welder. Now he can support his family on an income three times as high.

--In Pennsylvania, a truck driver lost his job because of a physical disability and had to go on welfare. He learned a new skill. Now he is self-reliant again, working as a clerk with a city Police Department.

--In Kansas, a high school dropout was salvaged from what might have been an empty life. He learned a trade with the Job Corps. Now he has a decent job

with an aircraft company.

Across America, examples such as these attest to the purpose and the success of our programs to give a new start to men and women who have the will to work for a better life.

These are good programs. They are contributing to the strength of America. And they must continue.

But they must reach even further.

I will ask the Congress to appropriate $2.1 billion for our manpower programs for fiscal 1969.

--This is the largest such program in the Nation's history.

--It is a 25 percent increase over fiscal 1968.

--It will add $442 million to our manpower efforts.

In a vigorous, flourishing economy, this is a program for justice as well as for jobs.

These funds will enable us to continue and strengthen existing programs, and to advance to new ground as well.

With this program, we can reach 1.3 million Americans, including those who have rarely if ever been reached before--the hard-core unemployed.


Our past efforts, vital as they are, have not yet effectively reached the hard-core unemployed.

These hard-core America's forgotten men and women. Many of them have not worked for a long time. Some have never worked at all. Some have held only odd jobs. Many have been so discouraged by life that they have lost their sense of purpose.

In the Depression days of the 1930's, jobless men lined the streets of our cities seeking work. But today, the jobless are often hard to find. They are the invisible poor of our Nation.

Last year I directed the Secretary of Labor to bring together in one unified effort all the various manpower and related programs which could help these people in the worst areas of some of our major cities and in the countryside.

The Concentrated Employment Program was established for this purpose.

Its first task was to find the hard-core unemployed, to determine who they are, and where and how they live.

Now we have much of that information. 500,000 men and women who have never had jobs--or who face serious employment problems--are living in the slums of our 50 largest cities.

The first detailed profile we have ever had of these unemployed Americans reveals that substantial numbers

--Lack adequate education and job training.

--Have other serious individual problems--such as physical handicaps--which impair their earning ability.

--Are Negroes, Mexican--Americans, Puerto Ricans, or Indians.

Are teenagers, or men over 45.

As the unemployed were identified, the Concentrated Employment Program set up procedures for seeking them out, counseling them, providing them with health and education services, training them--all with the purpose of directing them into jobs or into the pipeline to employment.

As part of the new manpower budget, I am recommending expansion of the Concentrated Employment Program.

That program now serves 22 urban and rural areas. In a few months it will expand to 76. With the funds I am requesting, it can operate in 146.


The ultimate challenge posed by the hard-core unemployed is to prepare rejected men and women for productive employment--for dignity, independence and self-sufficiency.

In our thriving economy, where jobs in a rapidly growing private sector are widely available and the unemployment rate is low the "make-work" programs of the 1930's

are not the answer to today's problem.

The answer, I believe, is to train the hard-core unemployed for work in private industry:

--The jobs are there: six out of every seven working Americans are employed in the private sector.

--Government-supported on-the-job training is the most effective gateway to meaningful employment: nine out of every ten of those who have received such training have gone on to good jobs.

--Industry knows how to train people for the jobs on which its profits depend.

That is why, late last year, we stepped up the effort to find jobs in private industry. With the help of American businessmen, we launched a $40 million test training program in five of our larger cities.

The program was built around three basic principles:

--To engage private industry fully in the problems of the hard-core unemployed.

--To pay with Government funds the extra costs of training the disadvantaged for steady employment.

--To simplify government paperwork and make all government services easily and readily available to the employer.


With that work, we prepared our blueprints. We have built the base for action.

Encouraged by our test program and by the progress that American industry has made in similar efforts, we should now move forward.

To press the attack on the problem of the jobless in our cities, I propose that we launch the Job Opportunities in Business Sector (JOBS) Program--a new partnership between government and private industry to train and hire the hard-core unemployed.

I propose that we devote $350 million to support this partnership--starting now with $106 million from funds available in our manpower programs for fiscal 1968, and increasing that amount to $244 million in fiscal 1969.

Our target is to put 100,000 men and women on the job by June 1969 and 500,000 by June 1971. To meet that target, we need prompt approval by the Congress of the request for funds for our manpower programs.

This is high priority business for America.

The future of our cities is deeply involved. And so is the strength of our Nation.


Our objective, in partnership with the business community, is to restore the jobless to useful lives through productive work.

There can be no rigid formulas in this program. For it breaks new ground.

The situation calls, above all, for flexibility and cooperation.

Essentially, the partnership will work this way:

The government will identify and locate the unemployed.

The company will train them, and offer them jobs.

The company will bear the normal cost of training, as it would for any of its new employees.

But with the hard-core unemployed there will be extra costs.

These men will be less qualified than those the employer would normally hire. So additional training will often be necessary.

But even more than this will be needed. Some of these men and women will need transportation services. Many will have to be taught to read and write. They will have health problems to be corrected. They will have to be counseled on matters ranging from personal care to proficiency in work.

These are the kinds of extra costs that will be involved.

Where the company undertakes to provide these services, it is appropriate that the Government pay the extra costs as part of the national manpower program.

The Concentrated Employment Program, in many areas, will provide manpower services to support the businessman's effort.


This is a tall order for American business. But the history of American business is the history of triumph over challenge.

And the special talents of American business can make this program work.

To launch this program, I have called on American industry to establish a National Alliance of Businessmen.

The Alliance will be headed by Mr. Henry Ford II.

Fifteen of the Nation's top business leaders will serve on its Executive Board. Leading business executives from the Nation's 50 largest cities will spearhead the effort in their own communities.

The Alliance will be headed by Mr. Henry concerned not only with the policy but with the operation of the program. It will:

--Help put 500,000 hard-core unemployed into productive business and industrial jobs in the next three years.

--Give advice to the Secretaries of Labor and Commerce on how this program can work most effectively, and how we can cut government "red tape."

The Alliance will also have another vital mission: to find productive jobs for 200,000 needy youth this summer--an experience that will lead them back to school in the fall, or on to other forms of education, training or permanent employment.

The Alliance will work closely in this venture with the Vice President. As Chairman of the president's Council on Youth Opportunity he will soon meet with the Alliance and with the Mayors of our 50 largest cities to advance this pressing work.


The rewards of action await us at every level.

To the individual, a paycheck is a passport to self-respect and self-sufficiency.

To the worker's family, a paycheck offers the promise of a fuller and better life--in material advantages and in new educational opportunities.

Our society as a whole will benefit when welfare recipients become taxpayers, and new job holders increase the Nation's buying power.

These are dollars and cents advantages. But there is no way to estimate the value of a decent job that replaces hostility and anger with hope and opportunity.

There is no way to estimate the respect of a boy or girl for his parent who has earned a place in our world.

There is no way to estimate the stirring of the American dream of learning, saving, and building a life of independence.

Finally, employment is one of the major weapons with which we will eventually conquer poverty in this country, and banish it forever from American life.

Our obligation is clear. We must intensify the work we have just begun. The new partnership I have proposed in this message will help reach that lost legion among us, and make them productive citizens. It will not be easy.

But until the problem of joblessness is solved, these men and women will remain wasted Americans---each one a haunting reminder of our failure.

Each one of these waiting Americans represents a potential victory we have never been able to achieve in all the years of this Nation.

Until now.


The programs I have discussed are the visible evidence of a Nation's commitment to provide a job for every citizen who wants it, and who will work for it.

Less visible is the machinery--the planning, the management and administration-which turns these programs into action and carries them to the people who need them.

I recently directed the Secretary of Labor to strengthen and streamline the Manpower Administration--the instrument within the Federal Government which manages almost 80 percent of our manpower programs.

That effort is now close to completion.

But we must have top administrators now--both here in Washington and in the eight regions across the country in which these manpower programs will operate.

As part of our new manpower budget, I am requesting the Congress to approve more than 600 new positions for the Manpower Administration. These will include 16 of the highest Civil Service grades.

The central fact about all our manpower programs is that they are local in nature. The jobs and opportunities exist in the cities and communities of this country. That is where the people who need them live. That is where the industries are--and the classrooms, the day care centers, and the health clinics.

What is required is a system to link Federal efforts with the resources at the State and local levels.

We already have the framework, the Cooperative Area Manpower Planning System (CAMPS) which we started last year.

Now I propose that we establish it for the long term.

CAMPS will operate at every level--Federal, regional, State and local. At each level, it will pull together all the manpower services which bear on jobs.

But its greatest impact will be at the local level, where it will:

--Help the communities develop their own manpower blueprints;

--Survey job needs;

--Assure that all federal programs to help the job seeker are available.

As part of our manpower budget, I am requesting $11 million to fund the Cooperative Area Manpower Planning System in fiscal 1969.


The programs outlined so far in this message will train the man out of work for a job, and help him find one.

To give the American worker the complete protection he needs, we must also safeguard him against hazards on the job.

Today, adequate protection does not exist.

It is to the shame of a modern industrial Nation, which prides itself on the productivity of its workers, that each year:

--14,500 workers are killed on the job.

--2.2 million workers are injured.

--250 million man-days of productivity are wasted.

--$1.5 billion in wages are lost.

--The result: a loss of $5 billion to the economy.

This loss of life, limb and sight must end. An attack must be launched at the source of the evil--against the conditions which cause hazards and invite accidents.

The reasons for these staggering losses are clear. Safety standards are narrow. Research lags behind. Enforcement programs are weak. Trained safety specialists fall far short of the need.

The Federal Government offers the worker today only a patchwork of obsolete and ineffective laws.

The major law--Walsh-Healey--was passed more than 3 decades ago. Its coverage is limited. It applies only to a worker performing a government contract. Last year about half of the work force was covered, and then only part of the time.

It is more honored in the breach than observed. Last year, investigations revealed a disturbing number of violations in the plants of government contractors.

Comprehensive protection under other Federal laws is restricted to about a million workers in specialized fields--longshoremen and miners, for example.

Only a few states have modern laws to protect the worker's health and safety. Most have no coverage or laws that are weak and deficient.

The gap in worker protection is wide and glaring--and it must be closed by a strong and forceful new law.

It must be our goal to protect every one of America's 75 million workers while they are on the job.

I am submitting to the Congress the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1968.

Here, in broad outline, is what this measure will do.

For more than 50 million workers involved in interstate commerce it will:

--Strengthen the authority and resources of the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare to conduct an extensive program of research. This will provide the needed information on which new standards can be developed.

--Empower the Secretary of Labor to set and enforce those standards.

--Impose strong sanctions, civil and criminal, on those who endanger the health and safety of the American working man.

For American workers in intra-state commerce, it will provide, for the first time, federal help to the States to start and strengthen their own health and safety programs. These grants will assist the States to

--Develop plans to protect the worker.

--Collect information on occupational injuries and diseases.

--Set and enforce standards.

--Train inspectors and other needed experts.


When Walt Whitman heard America singing a century ago, he heard that sound in workers at their jobs.

Today that sound rings from thousands of factories and mills, work benches and assembly lines, stronger than ever before.

Jobs are the measure of how far we have Come.

But it is right to measure a Nation's efforts not only by what it has done, but by what remains to be done.

In this message, I have outlined a series of proposals dealing with the task ahead--to give reality to the right to earn a living. These proposals deal with jobs. But their reach is far broader.

The demand for more jobs is central to the expression of all our concerns and our aspirations--about cities, poverty, civil rights, and the improvement of men's lives.

I urge the Congress to give prompt and favorable consideration to the proposals in this message.


The White House

January 23, 1968

Note: For the President's statement upon signing the Health Manpower Act of 1968, see Item 447.
On October 11, 1968, the President approved a bill which contained a provision appropriating funds for the Manpower Administration, Department of Labor (Public Law 90-557, 82 Stat. 969).

A list of the officers and members of the National Alliance of Businessmen was made public by the President in his remarks to the press following the transmittal of the message (see Item 25). For the President's statement following a meeting with the officers in connection with the JOBS program, see Item 92.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Special Message to the Congress - "To Earn a Living: The Right of Every American. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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