U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez announced this week that the White House will hold a “Summit on Worker Voice” on October 7 to “energize a new generation of Americans to come together and recognize the potential power of their voice at work.”
That’s great but … what about the “older generation” of American workers?
The Obama administration is currently engaging in the most outrageous assault on the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 since 2009. That’s the year that the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Gross v. FBL Financial Services that made it far more difficult to win a lawsuit alleging age discrimination than discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin and color.
Obama signed an executive order in 2010 that permits federal agencies to discriminate against older workers.
More recently, Perez endorsed the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative, in which America’s leading corporations (Walmart, Starbucks, Microsoft, etc.) have announced plans to discriminate against older workers and hire ” youth” aged 16 – 24 for tens of thousands of part-time and full-time jobs. Neither Perez nor Starbucks, the main organizer of the initiative, have explained what legal justification exists for violating the plain the plain language of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. Good intentions cannot justify violating federal discrimination laws.
Reach for American Dream
Perez applauds early labor advocates for the eight-hour work day and the weekend, noting these benefits were not inevitable but were “demanded by the working people of this nation … who wanted their chance to reach for the American dream.”
How can Perez and Obama justify making it more difficult for older workers to ‘reach for the American dream’?
In my book, Betrayed: The Legalization of Age Discrimination in the Workplace, I show that older workers are weeded out of the workplace through systemic age discrimination, whereupon they face blatant and epidemic age discrimination in hiring. Millions of older workers have been forced to spend down their savings, work in part-time or temp jobs and, finally, to retire as soon as they can, resulting in at least a 25% decrease in Social Security benefits for the rest of their lives.
According to Perez, the Summit “will bring together workers, employers, unions, organizers, and other advocates and experts; will highlight the value of collective bargaining; examine challenges facing workers trying to organize in the 21st century, bring attention to new, innovative ways that workers are coming together to have a voice in their workplaces; and engage employers who are collaborating with their workers to create meaningful partnerships that are good for workers and businesses.”
The Obama administration recently concluded a White House Conference on Aging , which completely ignored calls to address the problem of age discrimination in employment.