Statement by the President Upon Signing the Independent Offices Appropriation Act.
I HAVE reluctantly signed H.R. 7072, the Independent Offices Appropriation Act of 1953, containing the so-called Thomas leave rider which prevents the accumulation of annual leave earned by Federal employees. Legislation by rider is a bad practice in any case. In this case, I believe it to be a serious mistake from the standpoint of the Government, and most unfair from the standpoint of the Government's employees.
In October 1951, after extensive hearings and study, the Congress approved a new leave act for Federal civilian personnel. This legislation drastically reduced the amounts of annual leave granted to Federal employees outside of the postal field service who have less than 15 years of service. In enacting that legislation, the understanding was clear that in return for this severe reduction in annual leave, the then existing prohibition on accumulation of leave would be eliminated. This was done.
But now the Congress by again prohibiting a reasonable accumulation of annual leave--within less than a year from the time it authorized accumulation of leave under these circumstances--has broken faith with a large body of Federal employees. This whittling away of employee rights is a poor way to encourage high morale and productivity in the Federal service.
I am in agreement with the general philosophy that Federal employees should have about the same working conditions and benefits as employees in progressive private companies. The present graduated scale of annual leave conforms to this philosophy. Private employees, however, are generally covered by unemployment insurance in case they lose their jobs, and in addition many of them receive liberal severance pay from their companies when they leave. Civilian employees of the Federal Government have absolutely no unemployment insurance or severance benefits. The least that we should do for them under these circumstances is to permit them to accumulate a reasonable portion of their annual leave as a protection in case they lose their jobs.
The treatment here accorded to Federal civilian employees is in sharp contrast with that accorded to military personnel. Within 24 hours of taking this restrictive action, the Congress also passed legislation granting both unemployment insurance and mustering out pay to junior officers and enlisted men leaving the armed services.
The proponents of this rider refer to it as an economy measure. I am afraid that it is a penny-wise and pound foolish economy measure. This rider puts a premium on taking long vacations during a national emergency and penalizes the employee who sticks by the job. And if overtime work at premium rates is required to make up for large numbers away on vacation, other restrictive provisions in several appropriations for the current fiscal year have cut down on the availability of funds for this purpose. No one can estimate the loss to the Government caused by lowered employee morale.
I would not have signed the bill containing this rider except for the fact that the bill appropriates funds essential for the continued operations of the Government. I hope the Congress will soon take corrective action to strike this unwise and unjust provision from the law. There were many Members of the Congress who opposed its inclusion in this bill. I hope they will soon be joined by many others who do not feel that it is necessary to use the Federal civil service as a political whipping boy.
Note: As enacted on July 5, H.R. 7072 is Public Law 455, 82d Congress (66 Stat. 393).
Harry S. Truman, Statement by the President Upon Signing the Independent Offices Appropriation Act. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/231177