« PreviousContinue »
The views expressed to me by representatives of the industry are that they might like to submit further information to the committee early in January, preferably by oral presentation.
I think you should know, Mr. Chairman, that I made it very clear I could not speak for the committee. The usual practice of the committee is, after the first hearings, to permit further supplemental material to be submitted in writing; in view of the complexity of this bill and multiplicity of employers involved around the perimeter of the Nation, the west coast, the gulf, and the Atlantic, if they could make a case for further oral presentation early in January, I was sure that you, as chairman of the committee, would give very careful consideration to such a request.
But I also made it clear in that meeting that as chairman of this committee, you could expect the subcommittee to follow your wise discretion in making your recommendation at that time.
I did not know that you had already made an announcement which was pretty much along the lines of what I told the employer representatives in my Portland, Oreg., office a few days ago, speaking only for myself.
Senator YARBOROUGH. Senator Morse, I want to congratulate your efficient staff. They phoned me every day after being in communication with you. This announcement I made was as a result of your recommendations. Your staff and the subcommittee staff kept me advised every day.
This was originally set up for 2 days this week and 3 days next week, and then to close the record. Both sides have now seen the widespread ramifications as this applies to PX's all over the world, Army contractors all over the world, the District of Columbia, your reasonable suggestion from your broad knowledge of labor law indicates that it would take some wrap-up study on this.
This has been done not only on the basis of your recommendation, but on the basis of all the factors presented.
Senator MORSE. You will receive my complete cooperation on whatever decision you reach after the record has been made.
My question to you, Congressman, is this: Is the report correct that has been made to me that the people in the House probably will not get to hearings on it before adjournment this fall, and if not this fall probably it will be early in February, which would give us January to complete our record?
Mr. BURTON. The Senator's understanding of the situation squares with my own because of the length of time we had to take in dealing with the poverty bill, which we dealt with as a full committee.
We have such a backlog of basic committee work on bills that were introduced long before, and that, coupled with the problems of these last few weeks of the conference committees, I think it is out of the question that we would hold public hearings for the balance of this
It was my understanding we were going to target for the very early part of February, which would give us a little leeway, depending upon when we were to reconvene.
There is one additional point I would like to make. It is a matter that I was unsuccessful in urging upon the administration, and I would urge it for your consideration.
As both of you know full well, for the first time the Federal Employees' Compensation Act provided in it a sliding scale of wages against which the percentage of wage-loss ratio was applied on the minimum and maximum end. I think that is a very sound concept. I don't know to what extent I had any effect on that concept being adopted in the Federal Employees' Compensation Act. But in this act, I would hope that this committee would consider permitting the minimum benefit be geared to 66% or 75 percent of the Federal minimum wage law.
So as that minimum wage law moves, its new effective dates take place, the minimums automatically, under the bill, move with it.
There probably would not be many employees favorably affected by this, but it would rationalize the minimum wage law, and then the two-thirds or, if dependents, 75 percent of that as the minimum payment provided under this bill.
I think the concept is a sound one. If we have a minimum wage law, this would be, in effect, taking legislative cognizance of the fact that all employers are paying this wage, all employees have an earnings history that reflects the receipt of at least the minimum wage and, therefore, the minimum benefit amount should be geared to that minimum wage.
That would tend to keep the minimum benefit amount in step with the minimum wage levels as they move.
The second point that I think of importance, but it is subject to more properly, I would think, a difference of opinion because of the varying average wage levels in the various regions under which this legislation is administered, would be to gear whatever the wage-loss ratio is as of, let us say, the new $105 maximum and then permit an escalation of that $105 as the average wages move in future years in the direct ratio that the wages as of the time the legislation is enacted bears to the new maximum of $105, as the new wages then bear to what the new maximum would be.
It would build into the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Act the same concept we now have in the Federal Employees' Compensation Act, which is the minimum payment under the Federal Employees' Compensation Act being the entrance level of a G-2, but as that entrance level wage moves up, so does the Federal employees compensation move up.
Similarly, the maximum payment is the highest step of a GS-15. As that wage goes up, similarly, then, would the permitted maximum benefit amount increase under the Federal Employees' Compensation
I am suggesting the committee consider and have the staff look into the possibility of adopting at the minimum and maximum benefit ends, this concept so that the legislation won't deteriorate in its benefit to the injured workers during the 5-, 6-, or 7-year timespan they all must wait until Congress acts again. It has been Congress historical practice every 6 or 7 years, to restore the old wage-loss ratios.
With that, gentlemen, I thank you very much for your patience in listening to my testimony.
Senator MORSE. Thank you. I have no more questions.
Senator YARBOROUGH. Congressman Burton, again I congratulate you for working on this so diligently.
Senator Morse introduced a bill last year, but it was not reached because we had the comprehensive minimum wage law of 1966 which covered more new people than any single minimum wage law in the history of the United States except the original minimum wage law of 1939. passed when Franklin D. Roosevelt was President.
We also passed last year this Federal Employees' Compensation Act Amendments of 1966 which you have mentioned. That was the first raise in that law, the first time the ceilings had been raised under that Federal Employees' Compensation Act, in 17 years.
This year the Senate has passed the bill to prevent discrimination against workers on account of age, to protect workers from 40 to 65 years of age, directly affecting 40 million Americans in that age bracket. Of course, then there are many more being affected when you take into consideration their families.
So we are taking these in due course with progressive legislation to benefit the working people of the United States. That strengthens, of course, the whole economy, as we know it. We are not protecting the working people at the expense of the American economy. It protects the American economy, the American system, and the American capacity for industrial achievement.
So we made real progress last year, and we have made progress this year. We are hopeful that your colleagues can unfreeze that discrimination against the aged bill. We read in the papers and we read the Congressional Record, and we know that you have problems and we have problems, or else we wouldn't be here a week before Thanksgiving if we were not doing something.
Congress has been much criticized for doing nothing. I don't like to stay here all the time, but we often have breakthroughs such as in the past month to pass good legislation. I am hopeful that the bill to prevent discrimination on account of age will be one of those breakthrough bills passed by the Congress this year.
Mr. BURTON. I share your hope, and if we can resolve the airline hostess problem, I am sure we will get the bill on the President's desk, with your help.
Senator YARBOROUGH. That, I think, has been set aside in the bill and not resolved because of the great difference of opinion of people as to what youthful age you should lower the limits to. We had 45 to 65. Apparently the House thought that younger men were getting old. We didn't think a man could possibly be called an older worker. Even 45 looks very young to me. We lowered the age limits to 40 because of the House's younger age of 40 to 65. But, on lowering it to 32, we decided to leave that with Secretary Wirtz for study for 6 months. Thank you.
Mr. BURTON. Thank you very much.
Senator YARBOROUGH. Our next witness will be Mrs. Peterson.
Mrs. Peterson, we welcome you back to this committee as Assistant Secretary of Labor. We congratulate you on the great work you have done to benefit the working people of America over the years. Your work, beginning in 1961, as an informed member of the Department of Labor, and coming before numerous legislative committees, has been a great contribution.
I congratulate you on your tremendous achievements. Being a lawyer, I am rather jealous or envious of your great capabilities. I
grew up in an age when people didn't think that women lawyers were as smart as men lawyers. We have learned in our lifetime that they are just as sharp.
If it wasn't for the fact that ladies marry and leave to raise families. I believe there would be more lawyers who were women in the profession.
You may proceed with your testimony.
STATEMENT OF MRS. ESTHER PETERSON, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF LABOR, ACCOMPANIED BY TIMOTHY MCGINLEY, ACTING DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY; THOMAS TINSLEY, DIRECTOR, BUREAU OF EMPLOYEES' COMPENSATION; PETER J. DONOVAN, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, BUREAU OF EMPLOYEES' COMPENSATION; AND CAROL COX, ATTORNEY, OFFICE OF THE SOLICITOR
Mrs. PETERSON. I am sure you know how much it means to me to appear here. Senator Morse and Senator Yarborough, just coming into this room brings all kinds of memories of the many times we have worked together.
I must say it is an honor for me to appear before you. I hope to contribute a small degree to the work that the two of you here have done I am very mindful of the great work that you have performed in making the Federal Government as an instrumentality, a living and real instrumentality, for the welfare of people.
It is also pleasant to follow Congressman Burton, who has given leadership in this area.
I cannot express adequately to you my feelings for being here. I must say that you also give me credit for what I am not. I am not a lawyer, but I have wonderful lawyers to assist me. I think that is one of the splendid things in the Federal Government, that we have such able and dedicated public servants and civil servants who have contributed so much.
In saying that, I want to introduce the people with me today. First is Tom Tinsley, the administrator of the acts we are talking about today, who has worked in this field for about 20 years, and he knows it well.
We have with him Peter Donovan, the Deputy Director of the Bureau of Employees' Compensation, a devoted servant.
I have on my right Miss Carol Cox, who has done a great deal of the actual writing of the laws you have considered. She is the attorney. Then we have with us also Tim McGinley, who is the Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Labor Standards.
I want to say thanks to the staff of the Labor Department who have worked on this, to give recognition to the leadership you have given in promoting this law and in really providing the impetus to see that the administration comes forward with the bill that we have.
I am pleased that we are coming forward. I am really honored that I come with an administration bill in this area.
Senator YARBOROUGH. Mrs. Peterson, you are very generous in placing me in the same category as Senator Morse of Oregon. I have not been here nearly as long and was not nearly as well informed in labor law when I was elected to the Senate. He came to the Senate as an expert in labor law, one of the top experts in labor law.
No man in either House has done more or has done as much for labor in the years that Wayne Morse has been in the Senate. I don't think anyone living, in the Congress, has done more for labor than Senator Morse.
When I came here there were two Senators advanced in years with a great record, Senator Langer, of North Dakota and Senator Matt Neeley, of West Virginia. He was then in the wheelchair. I had the privilege of coming to the Senate and being greeted by them. Among those of us here now, no one has amassed this great record of progressive legislation for the working people of America as Senator Morse has. It is a pleasure to serve on this committee with him.
Mrs. PETERSON. I think Senator Morse knows that I know that very well. I think there are many other names. I think of Senator Thompson of Utah. I guess I am only jealous that Senator Morse gave away the position of chairman of his campaign committee, but maybe the vice chairmanship is open.
Senator MORSE. Mrs. Peterson, I want to say that Senator Yarborough has demonstrated once again that he is a biased friend, and I can think of nothing finer than a biased friend.
I now have the responsibility, sitting here, to be objective. I have often experienced that by being objective and carrying out my senatorial duties, I sometimes do not please either labor, management, or the administration. But I know that, in your case, I am going to listen to a statement in support of this bill which will be completely objective on your part. I look forward to it. I am delighted to have you before us this morning.
Mrs. PETERSON. Thank you.
I am pleased to appear before you to represent the administration to discuss S. 2485, a bill which would materially improve compensation benefits for those employees whose work injuries are compensated under the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act.
This act, administered by the Department of Labor, covers through its extensions a variety of employees, areas, and industries, all of whom are in private employment which, because of special characteristics of the employment, is under the jurisdiction of Congress instead of the State lawmaking bodies.
Therefore, the act has a remarkably wide geographical and diverse employment coverage. In numbers, it is estimated that approximately 1 million employees are under its protection.
The act, passed in 1927, has been amended seven times. Each time steady improvements have been authorized by Congress to make it. a more effective means of protection to disabled employees and their families.
Our experience in administering this act and our continuing study of labor standards and employee needs combine at this time to prompt our recommending S. 2485 to you. Its enactment, which we urge, would bring the now lagging compensation benefits under the act up to date.
The act initially was passed to give protection to longshoremen, harbor workers, and ship repairmen working on the navigable waters of the United States. You will recall that the Supreme Court in the 1920's struck down two attempts to cover these employees under State