This is a redaction of this speech made for the convenience of readers and researchers. One draft and a carbon copy of the speech exists in the John F. Kennedy Pre-Presidential Papers here at the John F. Kennedy Library. It is evident that these are speaking notes for Candidate Kennedy's speech; a more complete version of the text has not been found. Pages images of the draft and carbon copy of the speaking notes are available.
1. Pay tribute to outgoing President Richard Gray.
2. Tribute to incoming President Neil Haggerty (I would like to know his secret for success in Presidential elections).
3. Refer to previous appearances before the Building and Construction Trades Department of the AFL-CIO - its Legislative Conference last March and its 50th Convention last September. . . This is my first appearance as a Presidential candidate - and perhaps next year we can meet again at the Rose Garden behind the White House. . . There are some people who say that, now that I am a candidate, I should not appear at union meetings - that I should confine my appearances to the Olympics, the Rose Bowl, Sports Writers Associations and similar events . . . But I think if a candidate is going to win and represent the people, he has to get out of the locker room - - and onto the streets where people live and work.
4. This meeting is held at what should be a time of great prosperity for the building and construction trades and industry. This should be a period of greater building and construction activity than any time in our history. Employment in your industry should be expanding rapidly to meet the unprecedented needs of our nation.
5. Need for new housing. Our cities are tragically short of homes, schools, hospitals, airports, recreation centers and other community facilities. Our slums are actually increasing faster than our efforts to clear them - there are 100,000 more slum dwellings in New York City today, for example than there were in 1950 -and no other city has a slum clearance program as large as New York's. An estimated 22 million Americans live in slum dwellings today - in disease, squalor and filth, in poverty and degradation. At least four million homes in American cities lack any plumbing of any kind. At least 7 million homes are unfit for human occupation.
6. Expanded housing needs. The demand for new housing - as great as it is today—is going to be even greater. During the next ten years our population will continue to grow at a rate of three million a year - three million more people every year requiring a million new homes - decent homes in a suitable environment. And in addition, even if all our housing needs today were met and the population were not increasing, homes now in use will be deteriorating and need replacement at the rate of 300,000 a year.
In short, we need and will need more homes than ever before - homes which people of all incomes can afford. But the fact is that today we are building fewer homes than we did in 1950. We have adopted financial policies deliberately designed to discourage building. We have strangled already inadequate government programs. And we have failed to fulfill our hopes and heritage.
7. Other building needs unmet.What is true in the field of housing is also true in other areas of construction activity. We have simply not had the federal leadership necessary to give us the schools we need to prevent overcrowding and part-time or double shift operation. We have failed in repeated efforts to obtain federal assistance for the construction of new dormitories, laboratories and classrooms for our colleges which will soon feel the impact of the postwar "baby boom" now filling our schools. There have been no new starts on federal dams - no bold airport programs for the jet age - no effort to modernize or replace our older and more shabby hospitals - and no real effort to rescue the new federal highway program from being bogged down in red tape and inadequate planning.
8. Construction decline instead of prosperity. As a result, in this day of shortages and pressures - when the building and construction industry should be at a peak and expanding still further - the housing industry is in a recession - the only major industry in America which has not grown with a growing nation. It is estimated that building and construction activity this year will not expand - or even hold its own - but decline substantially. This is of concern to you and your unions and your families - but it is also of concern to every American who wants a decent home - or who wants his children to grow up in a decent neighborhood - or who wants his country to grow in strength and prosperity as we move into a most critical period in our history.
9. Next President's Agenda. I think it is imperative that the next President of the United States develop with the Congress a building and construction program in every area which will meet the needs and pressures of the 60's. At our present rate of urban renewal it will take anywhere from fifty to one hundred years to eliminate the substandard dwellings already in existence today - and at the end of that time there will be even more substandard dwellings than we now have. We must step up this program - and, in addition, make a new start on cooperative housing and public housing - modernize the mortgage insurance provisions of the FHA - and reverse the disastrous high interest rate, tight money policies have made it impossible for millions of Americans to buy a home. A new President and a new Congress can inaugurate one of the greatest periods of building expansion this country has ever known - improving our cities - expanding our schools and colleges - filling the nation's needs for new dams, new highways, new airports, new hospitals and all the rest.
10. Rights of workers. It will not be enough merely to expand our building and construction effort. We must also make certain that every employee in this industry shares in the benefits of this expansion. Wage scales must be set at a fair level. No one should receive less than a decent minimum. Everyone should be compensated adequately for overtime. No union member should be denied the right to picket sites that require him to work side by side with non-union member. Those thrown out of work - and those forced to retire - should receive benefits that will help replace, in a meaningful way, the wages they can no longer draw. Unless these basic measures of protection are afforded to the workers in your industry, there is a real danger that prosperity in the building industry will be prosperity for some, but not for all.
11. Legislative action now. The enactment of these basic safeguards does not need to await the election of a new President and Congress. This Congress contains many members of both parties who insisted that they were pushing repressive anti-union legislation last year out of their friendship for the working men and women of this country. They will have a chance to demonstrate that friendship - and I hope they will exhibit the same determination and speed - in passing upon the measures necessary to provide the safeguards of which I have spoken. At your Convention last September I outlined the history of the Labor Management Act of 1959 - what happened and why it happened - what was wrong with the final version, what we were able to keep out it and what we were able to put back in it - particularly from the building trades point of view. But if this Congress is really sincere in its desire to protect the rights of working men and women, it can take action now - this year, not some other year - on the bills I have mentioned:
a. a new minimum wage law - increasing the minimum to $1.25 and expanding coverage to many groups not now covered - including the building trades, who will benefit not so much from the wage base as they will the guarantees of time and a half for overtime.
b. Increased unemployment compensation through federal standards - and provide higher Social Security benefits and a medical care program for our retired workers.
c. Modernize and broaden the scope of the Davis-Bacon prevailing wage act - to make sure it applies to all current federally financed or federally assisted construction programs. There is no reason why any of these programs should benefit those contractors who undercut legitimate wages scales and hiring practices.
d. Finally, this Congress must make good on its pledge to permit situs picketing. The Congress never intended, I am certain, that the Taft-Hartley law should require union members to work side by side on a building with non-union men under unfair employers simply because more than one contractor or subcontractor was involved on the same site. Since the Denver building trades case, it is up to the Congress to pass such an amendment as a matter of equity - to restore the traditional rights and protections that the building trades have always enjoyed. After the House of Representatives eliminated this provision last year, we fought hard to get it restored in Conference. And when that proved impossible, Congressman Thompson introduced in the House - and I introduce in the Senate, with Senators Kuchel and McNamara as co-sponsors, a separate bill to take care of this problem. I did not give up the right in Conference until I had been given personal assurance by the Speaker of the House, Mr. Rayburn, the Minority Leader of the House, Mr. Halleck, the Majority Leader of the Senate, Mr. Johnson, and Minority Leader of the Senate, Mr. Dirksen - that my bill would be brought to an early vote in both houses early in this session of the Congress . . . and I intend to see that this commitment is kept.
12. Conclusion. In short, whatever may be our problems abroad, we stand on the threshold today of a critical period in the American economy - a period of great growth and prosperity, or a period of stagnation and retreat. Which way will America go? The answer, in part, is up to you . . . Benjamin Franklin at the Constitutional Convention