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Evening star. [volume] (Washington, D.C.) 1854-1972, January 20, 1942, Image 18

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Mead and Ramspeck
Laud Wartime Work
Of U. S. Employes
Radio Forum Speakers
Cite Vital Role They
Play Without Grumbling
The part the Federal employes
are playing in the Nation’s war
effort and the problems these Gov
ernment works# have to cope with
while serving their country were
outlined In the National Radio For
um last night bv Senator Mead,
Democrat, of New York, member of
the Senate Civil Service Committee,
and Representative Rams peck, Dem
ocrat, of Georgia, chairman of the
House Civil Service Committee.
James B. Burns, national presi
dent of the American Federation of
Government Employes, presented
the speakers with plaques In recog
nition of their efforts in behalf of
the civil service system and Gov
ernment workers. The plaques were
given by A. F. G. E. Lodge No. 551
of Brooklyn, N. Y., headed by John
J. Dunn, jr.
Arranged by The Star, the pro
gram was broadcast by Station
WMAL and the coast-to-coast blue
Network. Texts of the speeches
Representative Ramspeck:
In this hour of our national peril
ft is a great privilege to address a
Nation-wide audience and I wish to
express my thanks to The Wash
ington Star for making it possible.
It is also a privilege to appear
on this forum with that distin
guished and faithful servant of the
people, the junior Senator of‘the
great State of New York. In his
service as a member of the Congress
he has always given evidence of his
interest in the welfare of the people
who work. He has been a loyal
friend of the underprivileged and
especially has he been Interested in
the working conditions of the Fed
eral employes.
Play Vital Role in War.
The duty of the civil employes of
eur Government is not generally so
dangerous as the service of those in
our armed forces, but it is just as
essential for victory.
If our civil employes fail in their
Job the valter and the courage of
those in the rirmed forces will have
been in vain. The war wiU be lost.
Liberty will be taken from us and
slavery and oppression will come to
our shores.
Many improvements in the work
ing conditions of the Federal em
ployes have been enacted into law
during the past few years. Time
will noc permit me to discuss all of
these forward steps. However, I
do wish to refer briefly to some of
The civil service retirement sys
tem has been improved and the
House has recently passed a bill
extending this act to all of those
connected with the Federal Gov
ernment. This bill also provides a
more flexible system. It will in
crease annuities payable to those in
the higher pay brackets, because
they pay more, but it does not re
duce the annuity of any employe.
This bill was passed yesterday by
the Senate. I believe that its pas
sage will be hailed by most employes
as a great forward step and a real
contribution toward an attractive
career service for our Federal
Legislation providing annual and
aick leave has been enacted. Under
this law hours of work have been
regulated and made more uniform.
Hie 40 hour week has been installed
In the postal service.
Merit System Widened.
Postmasters of the first, second
and third classes have been placed
under the civil service law. An act
has also been passed extending the
civil service law to approximately
200,000 other employes, so that al
most 90 per cent of all Federal posi
tions are now under the merit
A uniform within-grade salary
promotion act has been put upon
the statute books, thus providing
small salary increases for about 200,
000 persons.
Through executive action, a Coun
cil of Personal Administration has
been established within the Civil
Service Commission. Studies of ad
ministrative procedure and policies
have resulted in more uniformity,
less red tape and In the adoption of
improved personnel method^
The foregoing are merely some of
the things which have been done for
the improvemeri of the working
conditions »nd the oj» rating meth
ods in the Federal service.
The Civil Service Commission has
greatly improved its staff, simplified
its methods, and is, I believe, doing
the best job ever done by this
Since the President initiated the
all-out defense program'm Muy,
1940, the Civil Service Commission
has recruited more than 90C.000 new
employes. A large percentage of
these have gone into navy yard,
arsenal and other activities con
nected with the production of
articles for the defense of our liber
ties. Many thousands ha’e win
placed with the Army and Navy to
handle the vast amount of clerical
and office work made necessary by
the program, which now becomes
the war effort. Other thousands
have gone into new agencies estab
lished in connection with this pro
Stenographers Needed.
The Civil Service Commission has
placed liaison representatives In the
defense agencies, in order that
prompt service might be given the
operating branches of the Govern
ment. Needed employes often have
been furnished within a few hours
after the request for them has been
received. Problems involving civil
service procedure have been settled
on the job, and the defense effort
has thereby been speeded up be
cause of the prompt and efficient
operation of the commission and its
The Civil Service Commission is
still working day and night to And
tie necessary employes for our war
#ffort. Information as to types of
workers needed can be had at any
Arst or second class post office, at
the district offices of the commis
sion, and through many newspapers
and radio broadcasts. The need
' for typists and stenographers Is
urgent. Examinations are being
given almost daily and those who
qualify are promptly inducted into
the service.
There is need also for many ex
perts In various lines, for engineers,
technicians and others. Opportu
nity exists for patriotic service in
this war in the civil branch of the
Government. It is Just as neces
sary for victory as are the services
In the Army and Navy.
2t has been necessary for the
GOVERNMENT WORKER CHAMPIONS HONORED—James B. Burns, National president of the
American Federation of Government Employes, pictured last night as he presented plaques to Sen
ator Mead (left), Democrat, of New York and Representative Ramspeck (right), Democrat, of
Georgia at National Radio Forum broadcast. Plaques were given in recognition of their work in
behalf of the civil service system and Government workers. —Star Staff Photo.
hours of employes to be extended
during the emergency, and I am
proud of the wav the employes have
responded to this need. Many of
them are working overtime. The
record of production in the navy
yards, the arsenals and other simi
lar plants in which articles for war
are being produced makes us proud
of the loyaltv of our Federal workers.
, Living Costs Studied.
The Bureau of the Budget is giv
ing consideration to the effect of
the increased cost of living upon
the Federal employes. It is my
thought that no action upon this
question should be undertaken until
Congress has enacted the price-con
trol bill. Then we will be able to
judge the problem in the light of
the amount of control that legisla
tion will have upon prices. If
prices are to continue their rise,
certainly the salaries of Govem
mfpt workers must be advanced.
In any event, this problem will have
careful study and will be consid
ered in due course.
The improvements made in the
working conditions for those in the
Federal service have been the result
of favorable sentiment brought about
by organizations of the employes.
They have presented the facts to
the committees of the Congress.
They have co-operated with those
of us who were interested in im
proving the operation of the Govern
ment. I am glad to commend these
organizations for the many helpful
things they have done. In most
cases they have had the benefit of
wise leadership, they have been con
servative and have evidenced a sin
cere interest in the welfare of the
Government, as well as in that of
the employes.
Last week we cel^cratec the 59th
anniversary of the passage of «ie
original civil service law. It was
signed jn January 16, 1883. At first
it covered only a few of the em
ployes. It has been extended from
time to time and now, as I have
stated, it covers almost 90 per cent
of the employes.
This law, which we like to call
the merit system, has resulted in
better qualified persons seeking po
sitions with the Federal Govern
ment because they saw opportunity
for making a career of public serv
ice. It has resulted in less govern
mental expense. It has meant more
efficient service to the public.
Curbs Spoils S^tem.
It is well known to all those ex
perienced in politics that the t!d
spoils system is wasteful and in
efficient, that it means more em
ployes than needed. It also often
means that persons are placed in
poritions where they must favor
certain firms or corporations with
contracts, and this often means
graft and waste of public funds.
Placing Federal employes under
the civil service has freed Senators,
members of Congress and other
officials from the political pressure
incident to appointments under the
spoils system. The time thus saved
can be devoted to giving the public
better service.
There is an erroneous opinion
held by many to the effect that civil
service employes cannot be dis
charged. That is far from the truth.
It is often more difficult to dis
charge a political appointee because
the influence which secured the job
will protect the employe. This is
often true even though the employe
is incompetent.
In the Federal service, any civil
service employe can be discharged
for proper cause. Each new em
ploye must serve a probationary
period during which discharge can
be had without cause. It therefore
is a fact' that no incompetent per
son can remain in Federal serv
ice if the supervisory officials do
We of tfce United States today
lace our greatest testing period. We
have been through other *ich
periods. There were'dark days dur
ing our early fight for freedom.
Even darker days were confronting
us during the Civil War.
Grave Times Ahead.
In the first World War we made
many sacrifices and suffered many
losses. We came through all of
those trials and went on to make
this the greatest of aU nations.
Those tests, however, as I see It,
were nothing to compare with the
task which we now must meet. This
is "an attempt at world revolution—
an attempt to force upon the world
the Ideology of the dictators. It
is an effort to bend us to their wiU
or, to force slavery upon those who
do not yield. •
In this grave hour* each of us has
ft part to play. I believe that we
shall successfully meet the test no
matter how much it may cost.
I have faith in the employes of
the National Government and am
confident that they will in full meas
ure do their part to the end that
Oft liberties may be preserved and
that victory shall result from our
Senator Mead’s Text.
Senator Mead:
I welcome the opportunity to ap
pear on The Star Radio Forum with
my colleague and good friend, Rep
resentative Rams peck.
I think that it is extremely impor
tant for aU of us Americans to un
derstand the problems which con
front the men and women who are
laboring so diligently and so de
votedly in the Federal civil service.
For those problems are not theirs
alone. They are, on the contrary,
our mutual problems; for each
American citizen is directly and
vitally affected by the day-to-day
functioning of the Federal depart
ments and agencies.
The Government of the United
States, my friends, is not some cold,
impersonal thing, set off by itself
and apart from the people. Our
Government truly is a Government
of the people—and the functions of
the Government are carried on by
men and women drawn form among
the people of the 48 States. Federal
employes are not a groujr separate
and distinct, enjoying rare privi
leges and high salaries.
Federal employes are our friends
and neighbors who are serving your
Government in many immensely
important ways. And they are doing
so often at great sacrifice to them
selves, for, contrary to an opinion
widely held. Federal employes are
not well paid; their jobs are not
sinecures, and their hours of em
ployment are not short and un
Loyal and Zealous.
I find on every hand, in Washing
ton and in the field throughout the
country, direct and unassailable
evidence of the loyalty, zeal and
devotion of the men and women of
the Federal service.
I know from personal experience.
back over a long period of
years, that dhere is in the United
States no g»up of workers giving
•MfTe of themselves in return for
Solittle material reward.
They work bn quietly and effi
ciently, doing the things which must
be done, by day and b>* night, to
keep our Nation on an even keel.
I know of no group which does its
work #more unobtrusively. I know
of no group which does its work
more effectively. I know of no
group upon which you and I and
all of us here in America are more
dependent for those essential serv
ices which make both our industrial
lives and our national lives flow
more smoothly and more safely.
In a thousand ways the work of
these employes touches us construc
tively. They guard our health, they
inspect the food we are to eat, they
deliver our mail, they help the
farmer and the city dweller, they
keep our essential records, they pro
tect and enhance our national re
sources. In these and In countless
other activities they work for us.
Working Harder, Longer.
And now in this time of trial and
crisis they are doing even more
than ever before. TTiere is scarcely
a Federal employe in this broad land
who is not working many hours of
overtime each week. Hundreds of
thousands of these hours are unpaid
for by our Government either in
compensatory time or in overtime.
But let me hasten to add that I
have heard no grumbling. On the
contrary. I have heard only expres
sions which heighten my admiration
fot the ijyalty and patriotic devo
tion to duty of these men and
And this in the face of the fact
that, because of the rapid rise In the
cost of living, Federal salaries, al
ways woefully meager, are proving
to be completely inadequate.
Let there be no mistake about
this: Federal employes are suffer
ing hardships, very real hardships,
as a result of the great and con
stantly growing disparity between
their small salaries, rigidly fixed by
law, and skyrocketing living costs.
Under present conditions it is sim
ply impossible for the great bulk
of the employes of the Federal Gov-'
emment to maintain even minimum
American standards of living.
Bear in mind that most Federal
employes are stationed in centers
where living costs are highest. I
am not referring only to Washing
ton, D. C„ although in the National
Capital the situation is typically
critical. The same is true at almost
every point where any substantial
number of Federal employes are
gathered; and there is no place, re
gardless of location, where living
costs have not risen beyond the
capacity of Federal employes to
meet the demand.
It is a truism that in times such
as these it is the men and women
who are employed at fixed salaries
who are hit the hardest by chang
ing economic conditions. Living
costs keep on going skyward, but
their incomes remain the same.
Living standards suffer, and when
living standards suffer no phase of
our national life Is immune from the
unhappy social and economic con
Would Mean Basic Things.
Let us suppose, now, that steps
are taken to provide an adjustment
of Federal salaries in some relation
to Uvtng costs. WiU that mean
that Federal employes will be able
to buy any more luxuries than they
did two years ago? Will it enable
them to go any more places and do
any more things than they did two
years ago? Will it enable them to
save any more money, buy any more
It will mean none of these things.
A salary adjustment will not give
the wife of a Federal employe, let
us say, money to buy furs and per
fume. But she will, I hope, be en
abled to buy as much milk for her
growing boys and girls; enough
warm clothing; enough fuel for the
furnace; enough to pay the doctor
and the dentist and perhaps have
a bit left over to drop into the col
lection plate of a Sunday morning.
These are basic things to which we
believe that the men and women
and children of America are en
titled; things which we must have
if we are to build a nation which
will stand strong and secure against
all the stresses and strains of these
bitter times.
I am telling you the truth when
I say that thev are things which
mahy Federal employes today are
losing because the cost of living
has risen so far beyond the stretch
ing capacity of their meager fixed
Patriotic Self-Sacrifice.
In thousands of offices, on our
national forests and parks, on our
great reclamation projects, in Fed
eral laboratories and shops, in post
offices, at lonely Government sta
tions along our coasts and upon our
mountains and along our borders,
in all of the countless diverse occu
pations which make up our great
Federal service, men and women are
working long hours to preserve the
American way of life.
I have talked with administrative
officials from every part of the
country, representing many Federal
departments and agencies, and with
out exception I hear an inspiring
story of patriotic self-sacrifice.
I hear a story of unity of ptirpose,
of single-minded devotion to an
ideal, of complete, utter belief In
the greatness cf our country and a
strong desire to serve so that its
ideals may be preserved for future
This, to me, is perhaps the finest
•f all tributes to our country: That
it calls forth this unselfish spirit of
self-sacrificing service. Surely no
Brighter page will be written in our
history than this which tells the ,
story of the accomplishments of
these men and women under the
most trying of personal circum
But I would not have salary ad
justment legislation provided simply
as a gesture of gratitude. Insofar
as that element is concerned. I am !
well enough acquainted with Fed-1
eral employes to know that it is
enough for them to feel that they
are contributing in a very vital way
to the welfare and the preservation
of their country.
Retirement Law Improved.
There is a growing appreciation
in all official quarters here in Wash
ington, in Congress and elsewhere,,
of the importance of the adoption
of sound and progressive methods
of public personnel administration.
I am happy to say that during the
past several years more forward
steps along this line have been
taken than ever before. The merit
system has been extended broadly,
as well as the classification compen
sation system, and there lately has
been enactsd into law a long-needed
statute regularizing within-grade j
The House of Representatives has '
passed and the Senate approved
today a measure which provides for
the improvement of the present
Federal retirement law.
(Although passed by both
branches of Congress, the bill
must go back to the House for
action on several Senate
This is a broadly constructive
piece of legislation. For, by making
the retirement law more effective,
more equitable, more thoroughly in
keeping with modem, progressive
^practice, the public as well as the
employes will be benefited.
Time has proved what we pioneer
supporters of such legislation have
said from the beginning, namely,
that a sound retirement system is
indispensable to efficient public per
sonnel administration. That is why
we as citizens should be interested
in any and all steps to make the
present retirement system a more
effective instrumentality.
“Pension” a. Misnomer.
While on this subject I should
like to make one point clear, for
there is considerable public misin
formation on it. One often hears it
said that civilian Federal employes
receive a “pension.” That is not
true. Federal employes are subject
to a retirement system. That means
that to the extremely modest sum
which they receive after many years
of service and upon reaching the
advanced age of retirement, they
themselves have contributed in a
very substantial measure.
Indeed, the amendments which
now are so well advanced toward
final passage, provide for a further j
increase in the percentage of retire- !
ment deductions from the employes’ {
For many years I have contended i
that the Federal Government should :
take direct action to set a minimum i
wage level for its employes and to
eliminate many of the discrimina
tions which exist in the schedules of
the Classification Act. Such legis
lation now is before the Congress
and I am glad to say that it has the
wholehearted support of top-ranking
officials of the Government charged
with personnel administration. Those
who seem to feel that the Federal
Government pays its employes highly
munificent salaries should note that
this bill would establish a minimum
wag« for adult full-time empires—
and the figure Is just $1,200.
Much yet remains to be done to
bring our methods of Federal per
sonnel administration to the point
set by the most forward-looking
authorities In this field, but we are
going ahead and, with the support
of an understanding publle opinion,
we shall contaSe to progress.
Publle Opinion Often Hostile.
It Is Impossible to overestimate
the Importance of publltoplnlon In
relation to the sound a.Jfi construc
tive solution of problems affecting
Federal personnel. Even today, I
regret to say, these problems too
often are faced on the basis of
prejudice and animus.
Too often these questions, so com
plex. so technical, so broad In their
implications, are the subject of
sweeping. Ill-advised and incorrect
generalizations—the exact opposite
of the scientific attitude which must
prevail If we are to reach wise and
just solutions.
I believe, on the contrary, that we
will appraise the question fairly,
honestly and with full regard for
those values which Americans cher
ish so much, and for the preserva
tion of which mo6t of us are labor
ing with such right good will.
Federal employes today truly are
in the vanguard of our great nation
al effort.
In keeping our eyes on the goal
of ultimate success and victory, let
us not lose any of our priceless
heritages. Let us remember that
what we are striving to achieve is a
safe and secure America in which
each man and woman who works
shall be able to purchase an ade
quate share of the necessities of
life, and shall work under fair, de
cent and equitable conditions.
I do not believe that the Ameri
can people want to penalize those
who are bearing such a heavy share
of the duties and responsibilities
of these stirring yet infinitely try
ing times.
For that reason I feel confident
that there will be wholehearted and
ungrudging public support of some
fair method of Federal salary ad
justment. And that, likewise, there'
will be a new understanding of the
very real importance to each citizen
of every step taken to improve the
whole system of Federal personnel
I know of no more loyal, no more
faithful, no more efficient public
servants than those In the service
of our own Federal Government.
| 70 -1*011*"
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