The White House on Wednesday will hold a Summit on Worker Voice that supposedly will provide a historic opportunity to bring together workers, employers and labor leaders “to highlight the relationship between worker voice and a thriving middle class.’
But some voices will be missing. The voices of those who have no work due to systemic, government-approved age discrimination in hiring.
The Obama administration has been deaf to the voices of older workers who are disproportionately mired in long-term unemployment because of the misguided and harmful policies of the Obama’s administration.
In 2010, President Obama signed an executive order establishing the Pathways “Recent Graduates” Program, which allows federal agencies to engage in age discrimination in hiring. That order sends a signal to private sector employers that age discrimination in hiring is justified and will be tolerated.
To make things worse, U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez last summer announced his support for a program developed by Starbucks, Microsoft and Walmart, and other leading American corporations, called the “100,000 Opportunities Initiative.” The purpose of the program is to give 100,000 16- to 24-year-olds full and part-time jobs by 2018.
Starbucks couched the initiative as a well-intentioned effort to help young people who face systemic barriers to jobs and educations. Whether or not this is true, it is irrelevant. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act and civil rights laws generally do not allow employers to discriminate because they supposedly have good intentions. Besides, older workers also face systemic barriers to jobs. A recent report by AARP found that half of the people in the U.S. between the ages of 45 to 70 who lost their job during the last five years are still not working.
The Obama administration has effectively abandoned a 50-year-old policy of encouraging employment through discrimination-free efforts, such as through education and training.
Readers who think the government should get out of the business of age discrimination are encouraged to “start the convo” using Twitter and the hashtag #StartTheConvo:.