This is a transcription of this speech made for the convenience of readers and researchers. A copy of the text of this speech exists in the Senate Speech file of the John F. Kennedy Pre-Presidential Papers here at the John F. Kennedy Library.
It has been said that the strength of a nation depends to a large extent upon the strength of its civil service. Certainly there is no better guarantee of our future as a nation than a strong civil service.
Just as there are those who say we cannot afford to increase minimum wages, there are those who tell us that we cannot afford to grant salary increases to Government employees. But I am convinced that we cannot afford not to revise the general pay scale upward.
If there is any group that has been left behind in the parade toward higher income to meet higher costs of living, it is our classified and postal workers. Sixty per cent of them earn less than $100 a week. I have seen the actual budgets of fifty Government employees, taken at random. Of the fifty, only two found it possible to live within their income. In order to finance their basic expenses, twenty of them had part-time jobs. In nineteen cases, the wife had to work in order to make ends meet.
This record is not one of which we can be proud. But the Administration tells us that Government employees must wait -- must wait for the completion of additional studies. This has a familiar ring.
The whole history of pay legislation during the past eight years has been one of waiting and hoping. Three times Congress passed wage increases for Federal employees. Three times this was vetoed. We were successful in getting through two increases only after they were scaled down to meet administrative objections.
Today, more than ever before, we need a career service that is second to none. Today we need new ideas, new techniques, statesmen, politicians, and civil servants completely dedicated to the service of our nation. Those who are entrusted with the responsibilities of government should not need odd jobs after a regular 8-hour day to enable them to pay their bills. Their wives should not be required to obtain employment to meet their living expenses.
I am confident the Congress will meet its responsibilities toward our classified employees by enacting a suitable salary scale -- one which reflects the higher costs of living and general wage increases in industry. If vetoed, the veto should be overridden.