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Statement About Labor Day, 1969

August 26, 1969

ABRAHAM LINCOLN described working men as "the basis of all governments." Woodrow Wilson said that working people were "the backbone of the nation." And even Calvin Coolidge, who on one occasion suggested that the business of America was business, also declared when he was President that "America recognizes no aristocracy save those who work."

I am sure these sentiments are shared by all Americans as the nation observes another Labor Day. The workers of America have assumed important responsibilities and have carried them out faithfully. It is important now that the nation fully carry out its responsibilities to them. It is essential, for example, that the wages of working people be protected against inflation. This administration has made the fight against inflation a matter of highest priority. We have already succeeded in our effort to cut federal spending, an important anti-inflationary move. We believe that, with the cooperation of all Americans, we can prevent another wage price spiral and restore stability to our economy.

It is important, too, that the chance to hold a good job be extended to the many Americans who do not enjoy this opportunity at present. More jobs must be provided--good jobs which provide dignity for the worker and security for his family. Only a strong and growing economy can adequately achieve this goal.

We must also be sure that those who seek employment are prepared for the jobs which will exist. It is encouraging to note in this regard that the number of job training opportunities for disadvantaged Americans will increase by some 80,000 during the coming year--so that the total will be more than one million. But even this increase is in adequate. This Administration has therefore proposed a new, comprehensive manpower program, one which will improve and extend job counseling, training, and placement services. The proposed program would transfer greater administrative responsibility for manpower projects to the Mayors and Governors, officials who are well equipped to tailor projects to meet local requirements.

We have also developed a new approach to welfare, one which will provide incentives for the recipients to seek training and employment. Our plan is designed to reward labor; under our new scale of benefits, it would always pay to work.

Because we believe in the dignity of work, we also believe that work opportunities should be made equally available to all Americans. We have proposed stronger government efforts to protect equal opportunity in employment--even as we have moved to bring greater fairness to the hiring practices of the Federal Government.

The health and safety of our workers also requires immediate attention. Each year, more than 14,000 people are killed and more than two million are incapacitated because of work-related illnesses or accidents. We have therefore proposed to the Congress a new national Occupational Safety and Health Act under which we would establish and enforce nationwide standards for safe and healthful work places. We have suggested special legislation of this sort for the coal industry.

As we renew our commitment to the general well-being of the working man, we also reaffirm our faith in sound collective bargaining. In an increasingly complex society, one in which so many elements depend so heavily on one another, the process of collective bargaining must be strong and effective and exercised with self-restraint on all sides. But the process cannot work unless the participants are free to reach their own decisions. This Administration will always respect that freedom.

! mention these particular concerns because they are of special importance to the working people of this country. In the weeks ahead, we will move forward in each of these areas. We will also make progress in other fields which have a direct impact on workers' lives: tax reform, for example; crime control; and, of course, the pursuit of peace. And we will proceed toward all of these goals with greater confidence because we know that the labor force of this country shares our commitment and supports these efforts.

This nation has always been dedicated to the proposition that honor lies in honest toil. We believe that the strength and well-being of American working people is central to the strength and well-being of the nation. And we are convinced that the genius of America lies in the energy and perseverance with which millions of Americans do their daily work.

Labor Day, 1969, is an appropriate time for all of us to reaffirm these important precepts. I am pleased to join my countrymen in expressing admiration and appreciation to the working men and women of America.


Note: The statement was released at San Clemente, Calif.

Richard Nixon, Statement About Labor Day, 1969 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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