Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

Veto of Postal Field Service Compensation Bill

May 19, 1955

To the United States Senate:

I return herewith, without my approval, S. I "To increase the rates of basic compensation of officers and employees in the field service of the Post Office Department." I take this action for three reasons. First, the bill creates new discriminations or inequities which would affect many thousands of postal employees. Second, the bill creates grave administrative problems such as the establishment of thousands of individual pay rates. It forces awkward and unfair administrative practices in a government department whose operations affect every person, every enterprise, every community in the country. Third, the bill imposes a heavier burden upon the taxpayer than is necessary to establish salary rates throughout the department, which will compare favorably with rates for similar work elsewhere in government and in private industry.

At the outset of this Administration, the Postmaster General began a comprehensive study of the entire postal system.

The principal purpose was to discover effective ways and means by which the American people could be assured more speedy, certain, economical and efficient handling of their mail. Obviously, this purpose can be achieved only if first, postal employees are dedicated and satisfied in career service because of fair compensation, good working conditions, adequate benefits in vacations, insurance, sick leave and old-age security; and second, the Department's administrative structure, incorporating the best management practices, is so designed that merit and responsibility are recognized and rewarded.

In accordance with the findings of the comprehensive study, on January 11, 1955, by special message to the Congress, I recommended an increase in the salaries of postal employees which would be composed of two elements--a general increase in postal pay and a reclassification of postal positions that would eliminate inequities. To accomplish these purposes I recommended a 5 percent pay raise and adjustments in classification to bring about proper wage relationships among the various jobs in postal service. The cost of the reclassification proposals would have brought the total increase to 6½ percent, with an aggregate annual cost of $ 129 million.

Those recommendations, if adopted, would have placed the salaries of postal employees in proper relationship to the salaries paid for similar work in nearly all the larger cities. The pay raises recommended were substantially greater than the increase in the cost of living since the last adjustment in postal wages.

Subsequently, the House Post Office and Civil Service Committee, by a substantial bi-partisan majority, reported a bill-H.R. 4644--which, although approximately $30 million a year more costly than my recommendations, embodied the essential elements of a reclassification system. In the matter of reclassification, that bill, as reported by the Committee, could have been, and still can be, with certain corrections, the basis for legislation which would establish fair relationships between the salaries of various positions in the postal service on the sound principle of equal pay for equal work and more pay for more difficult and responsible work.

It has always been recognized that in the consideration of pay legislation, there can be a reasonable difference of opinion as to what constitutes an appropriate increase. But there can be no compromise with the principle of fairness, and any pay legislation must be fair to all to whom it applies. It must be workable administratively and not be excessive in cost.

The bill before me fails to meet these criteria. Specifically:

(1) It discriminates against large groups of postal employees such as rural letter carriers, special delivery messengers, and many supervisors and postmasters. These total tens of thousands.

(2) Aside from creating new and serious administrative problems, the total cost of the bill, approximately $ 180 million a year, is substantially greater than is necessary to adjust postal salaries to a fair level, either from the standpoint of pay for comparable work or from the standpoint of increase in the cost of living.

I regret the necessity of the action which I am taking. It is my earnest hope and recommendation that the Congress will quickly consider and enact postal pay legislation that will be in the public interest and fair to all of the half million employees who man the Postal Service. To meet this test, such legislation should provide a reasonable increase in pay for all postal field service employees. It should provide for reclassification of postal positions to bring about proper wage relationships so as to eliminate inequities. It should not discriminate against some groups in favor of others, and it should be administratively workable.

Because the enactment of such legislation will substantially increase the postal deficit, I wish again to emphasize the imperative need for postal rates that will make the Postal Service self-supporting and be based on service rendered to the user. We can no longer afford to continue a costly deficit operation paid for by millions of taxpayers in amounts out of all proportion to the postal services that they as individuals receive.


Dwight D. Eisenhower, Veto of Postal Field Service Compensation Bill Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/233901

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