Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Statement by the President: Labor Day.

August 16, 1967

THE HISTORY of the labor movement in America is a lesson in responsibility.

The movement began at a time when workers were treated more as commodities than as human beings, when most men and women were without power to affect the conditions and wages of their working lives, and when the laws offered no protection for collective action.

In another country, or in different hands, the workers' protest against these conditions might have degenerated into sustained violence. There are always some who glorify violence as the midwife of progress. There are always some who mistakenly equate hatred with determination, force with justice.

But the American labor movement learned early that violence is the sure road to disaster. Labor in this country organized not to destroy, but to demand a part of the American dream. As a result, the American worker today enjoys a prosperity and a security unknown to any other workingman in the history of the world.

Now, on this 73d Labor Day, America and her labor movement have much to celebrate.

More Americans--76.2 million of us, 1.6 million more than on last Labor Day--are at work than ever before. The unemployment rate, now 3.9 percent, has been below 4 percent during all but one month in the past year and a half. This is the longest period of sustained low unemployment since the early 1950's. Our per capita disposable personal income has reached $2,717--a 3.6 percent increase in purchasing power over the past year. American workingmen have mightily contributed to, and benefited from, these achievements.

But our work is not done, if we only magnify our own affluence. Years ago labor fought to awaken the social conscience of those who owned and managed property and production. Today our common challenge is to extend the promise of America to those who are as unfamiliar with it as the railroad workers and coal miners were 70 years ago.

In a land of plenty, one out of every seven persons lives in poverty.

Some are the victims of discrimination because of their race, their religion, their sex, or their age.

We must cure these ills. We must create more jobs, and train the men and women to fill them. We must guarantee the right of every citizen to become the best that there is within him to be.

In the 1930's, the labor movement spoke on behalf of the forgotten many to the privileged few. Today, it must continue to speak--more firmly than ever-on behalf of the disadvantaged minority.

We are committed to the defense of freedom abroad, and we will honor that commitment. But we are also charged with the duty to assure the rights of every American at home. It is a duty we must fulfill.

Note: See also Item 376.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Statement by the President: Labor Day. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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