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to continue to fund the older workers public service employment program as mandated by the Congress in Title III of CETA.
Thank you for your consideration. Please be so kind as to make this letter a part of the hearing record in the proceedings you and your subcommittee are holding on the Older Americans Act. Sincerely,
PREPARED STATEMENT BY MILO SMITH, SPOKESPERSON, JOBS FOR OLDER WOMEN
ACTION PROJECT FAIRMONT HOTEL PRESS CONFERENCE, JULY 29, 1974 We are here today to let everyone see that we are NOT "over the hill." We are women between the ages of 40 and 65 without any means of support other than that which we can provide for ourselves by working. We're too young to be retired ... yet we're told that we are too old to be rehired. WE NEED EMPLOYMENT... we need to eat like everyone else.
Our expertise is welcomed by every volunteer agency in the area, yet we are considered incompetent when it comes to working for money. How are we supposed to exist for the next 15 to 25 active years we have ahead? We have knocked on every door and we are professionals at standing in the line at EED ... all fruitless and frustrating experiences. Even these public agencies have accepted the youth orientation of current hiring practices and preferences. None of them recognize our particular problems.
There is a group meeting here in the Fairmont Hotel to be briefed on compliance with government legislation on equal employment opportunity. The speakers are nationally prominent leaders of government agencies which are supposed to be protecting our interests. WE are here too, briefing you on the unfair and systematic exclusion of older women by employers, and to tell you that the agencies supposed to be enforcing the equal opportunity laws are not doing much for U'S. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, which makes job discrimination against persons 40 to 65 ILLEGAL, hasn't yet done us much good either. What is needed is a good “pattern and practice" suit which will put employers on notice that breaking the law will cost them money.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission should include age as a factor to be considered in their investigations. They should determine, for exam. ple, why banks don't hire older women as tellers, or why you see so few older women receptionists.
The l'.s. Commission on Civil Rights has the power and responsibility to recommend changes in the Civil Rights Act to encompass age discrimination in employment. We call on them to HOLD PUBLIC HEARINGS ON THE EMPLOYMENT PROBLEMS OF OLDER WOMEN. We have plenty of evidence to present and we are ready to give our testimony. We need support in overcoming the obstacles and humiliation encountered daily in our search for work. WE DEMAND THE RIGHT TO WORK—and that means more than just exploitive, menial work. WE DEMAND EQUAL ACCESS to the job market.
To help the agencies do their work. We have prepared THE CASE OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST OLDER WOMEN, and we expect to see our case processed soon. Meanwhile we do not intend to remain quiet, and we urge all jobseeking older women to become squeaky wheels. DON'T AGONIZEORGANIZE!
THE CASE OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST OLDER WOMEN
According to the Human Rights Commission, discrimination is the effect of an action, policy or practice which selects a class of persons to receive unequal treatment. That's us! We are a class of persons (female, over 40). We have wequal access to jobs--not based on our ability to perform those jobs, but based on bias, unchallenged assumptions and the cult of youth.
Most men do the hirirg, and the women who do, follow man's bidding. And men prefer the women around them to be young and sexy. (Especially older men. who are likely to be the decision makers. This reflects their own aging problems).
Example of action: A personnel manager sends word to the secretarial employment agency, “Don't send me any old ones".
Example of policy: A personnel memo is circulated, “We need a good public image. C'p-front employees should be snappy looking."
Example of practice: The result is no hiring of women over forty.
There may be some older women inside who were hired young and stayed employed. But if you need a job and go out looking for one after forty, you're likely to become so discouraged that you give up. Worst of all, you soon begin to believe all the negative messages you receive, and you decide that you are “over the hill," and virtually enemployable. Or you accept a minimum wage job if you need one badly enough, "selling yourself cheap," and thereby depressing income for yourself and for other workers, as Carin Claus has described us.
The “reentry woman" is especially hard hit by this combination of sex and age discrimination. More and more of us are being forced-whether we want to or not to look for jobs. Some of us waited until the nest was empty. We had tremendous social pressure to stay home and care for the children, but now we're punished for having done so. Some of us are widows and forced to fend for ouselves to augment inadequate survivor's benefits, if any. Some of us went back to college for a degree, and then found out that it was worthless at our age. *Others are married but our husbands are unemployed, or not earning enough to combat inflation, when we're trying to put our children through college, or pay for ailing parents. We want to share the load with our husbands, but are denied that right.
Many of us have felt the chilling recognition of what lies ahead for the elderly, and we want frantically to get in enough social security quarters to qualify for some subsistence. And there are a growing number of us who are single. Divorce and dissolution are simpler now. Men are dumping us right and left for younger women, and judges are backlashing against women by saying, “You want equality, go out and work."
Of the 21.8 million American women between ages 45 and 64, 2 million live in families headed by females, and another 5.1 million are single women-separated, divorced, widowed, or never married. As a woman grow's older, she is more and more likely to be on her own. A little over half of women 55-64 are still living with husbands. Only one out of three elderly women was married and living with her husband in 1970, and the figure is decreasing steadily.
Therefore, we are concerned not just for our present but for our future. Chairman Arthur S. Flemming of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has stated that “older women are by far the poorest segment of American society." He also said that single women over 6.5 receive a median income of $1,899 a year, half of the annual income of men in the same age bracket. (Which is little enough). Unless we can work during the years before retirement, we will probably join those on the lower half of that median.
So we are not seeking jobs just for pin money. We need to work. Futher, we want to, for the same human reasons that everyone else seeks employment: for a sense of self-worth, to buy things we need, and to feel useful.
Although many of us have tried, we cannot join the cult of youth ... despite a billion dollar industry which feeds upon our problems. We are, in fact, a bona fide minority group, victims of prejudice and inequity. WE CHARGE DISCRIMINATION!
THE COMPLIANCE MACHINERY (AND WHAT'S WRONG WITH) Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (as amended by the Equal Opportunity Act of 1972) prohibits discrimination in employment in Federal, State and local government, and in the private sector, on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. (Enforcement lies with the province of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). Where does that leave us? So far, nowhere. Some progress has been made to combat race and sex discrimination, but age isn't even mentioned in that law,
But, you tell us, there is the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, administered by the Dept. of Labor's Wage and Hour Administration. If we have a complaint, we are told to see any one of their 350 plus offices. Yet, as Sylvia Porter has pointed out the Labor Dept.'s enforcement arm for this law is drastically underfunded and undermanned (and womaned) and as conditions now stand, the law is “no less than a cruel sham”.
This agency is beginning to take a more aggressive stance, (the recent Standard Oil, and especially the current railway case), but in general the record of
the Labor Dept. in fighting age discrimination is dismally poor. Complaints are handled on a one-by-one basis with conciliation the major goal, as opposed to making discrimination unprofitable for employers. The budget is miniscule compared with the pervasiveness of age discrimination.
Most cases have been concluded by consent decrees, rather than upon policysetting litigation. The cases challenging mandatory retirement will have important consequences for male employees in the higher economic brackets, but virtually no impact upon our problems. Furthermore, field and regional offices of the Division are steeped in educate-employers-on-the-value-of-older-workers philosophy, and carefully avoid publicity which would encourage persons who experience discrimination to file cases.
If discrimination is discrimination, why is the compliance machinery that is moderately well-funded, that has the right to litigate complaints, which has guidelines for affirmative action (as opposed to non-discrimination) and which has developed legal precedents by fighting cases in court-why is this agency not getting its teeth into what Sylvia Porter calls "the most virulent form of job discrimination?" The EEOC will answer "We are not mandated to tackle age discrimination. You would have to amend the Civil Rights Act."
That is a good idea. We have recognized the pervasive nature of racism, with its negative impact on job equality, and are beginning to recognize the equally pervasive nature of sexism, with its own negative impact on job equality. Now it is time to recognize that ageism is similarly pervasive, that older persons, especially women, have inferior status which is accepted as natural and normal. "What do you expect at your age?” is what we commonly hear.
But the EEOC (and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance) need not wait until the law is changed to include age. The laws may divide various forms of discrimination into neat categories, but life does not. A woman of 45 is just as jobless whether not hired because she is overage or a female. But if the EEOC would investigate the matter, they would surely find that age discrimination is applied differently to men than to women. We contend that we older women experience, in practice, another covert form of sex discrimination. Women suffer from age discrimination at an earlier age than men, more often, and differently.
Sex and age discrimination are a poisonous combination, because employers look for qualities in most female employees which have no bearing on the job per se, but which reflect their own or community prejudices. One such prejudice is that a woman should be pretty (i.e. young) for certain kinds of positions, such as bank teller, airline hostess or receptionist. Yet the actual work performed could just as adequately be done by a woman 40 or over, and a "reentry woman" at that. To hire women exclusively for such positions is now considered sex dis. crimination against men. It is equally sex discrimination against older women, because the custom of using only women in such positions is based on a sexist interpretation of the job.
Don't just take our word for it. Of course, you won't. Find out for yourselves by adding age to the information required from employers on your EEOC forms. We guarantee that you will discover enough patterns and practices to set your legal machinery into action.
Check out the employment applications. Do women over a specific age get more than a cursory interview? Is it the same age for men? Are there certain types of work that are reserved for older women and other work for younger ones? Is there a pay differential? How does that compare with men? Is there a specific “don't hire" age differential between men and women? Don't confine yourselves to private employers, because government is notoriously discriminatory against older women, unless they are already protected by seniority. And by all means check with employment agencies. They can reveal that the most difficult persons they have to place are older re-entry women.
Employers may argue that in the case of re-entry women, it is not their age, but the fact that they have been out of the job market a number of years. However, in the celebrated case of GRIGGS-DUKE POWER, it was successfully argued that the employer had not proved the validity of certain tests to predict job performance, which effectively excluded blacks. There is similarly no proof that re-entry women cannot perform adequately in many job categories.
The compliance machinery-none of it—is protecting us. It is quite apparent that we will have to take care of ourselves. We will have to speak out, raise our complaints loudly, until the laws are changed and properly enforced, and until employers, both public and private, can no longer pronounce us unemployable. Whether we like it or not, women are moving from dependence to self-sufficiency. Passage of the Equal Rights Amendment will provide constitutional guarantees of equal protection of the law. Let us hope that we will have won more than equal rights to discrimination by age.
THE REMEDIES (OR WHO SHOULD BE DOING WHAT)
At this meeting, all the elements are present. Here are representatives of employers and representatives of the agencies responsible for enforcement of the laws-namely, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance, the Labor Dept.'s Wage and Hour Division, etc. We older women request that you do the following in order to process our complaint. Employers
Treat us as individuals. Put aside such myths as the one that older women switch jobs more often than men or younger women. (Actually, a recent Civil Service study shows that turnover rates for women in their early 50's are about one-sixth the turnover rates for women in their 20's.)
Also, combat the myth that older people slow down mentally (or be encouraged, if you are 50 or more). Tests measuring conceptual thinking reveal that people tend to improve as they age. Sylvia Porter cites one test in which the average participant did better at age 50 on a general intelligence test than she/he did as a first-year college student.
Employers should also request assistance from the EEOC to develop joint labor-management committees for apprenticeship and training which include older women. Note: we have already had an incredible amount of life experience, and we can retrain. Before considering us inflexible, try us out. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Get the facts. Add age to your EEOI forms and collect some hard data. Find out if your allegation is not in fact true that we suffer another covert form of sex discrimination--namely, we are not hired because we do not conform to employer's sexist image of women. As the major federal protector and enforcer of non-discrimination in employment, we need your help. Office of Federal Contract Compliance
Please review your guidelines to see if there are not forms of age discrimination reserved for the female sex.
For example, if you consider it sex discrimination not to return women to the same or equal employment after child bearing, why is it not also discrimination not to do so after child rearing?
If it is sex discrimination to force women to retire at an earlier age than men, and you have so ruled, why is it not sex discrimination if women cease to be hired at an earlier age?
Do you look at the age patterns of employment? Do they correspond to the population figures, and do they reflect differences between the sexes?
As the advocate of affirmative action, you too could assist us greatly. Wage and Hour Division-Labor Department
See yourself as an advocate, not as a negotiator or conciliator or educator. Set about really enforcing the law instead of being an ineffectual band-aid for a cancer-like disease.
In regard to older women, take on a large company (perhaps in the banking or insurance industries) and force them to comply with the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, using the pattern and practice procedures which have been most effective, and most costly for lawbreaking employers.
Then publicize your actions. How many people know enough about you to know where and how to file a complaint? The United States Commission on Civil Rights
Since the commission is charged with fact-finding which may subsequently be used as a basis for judicial, legislative or executive action, and to carry out this responsibility has the power to hold public hearings, we call upon the Commission to hold a hearing on discrimination against older women. Such a hearing should allow organizations such as the JOBS FOR OLDER WOMEN ACTION PROJECT. AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF RETIRED PERSONS, GREY PAYTHERS. TASK FORCE ON OLDER WOMEN OF THE NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR WOMEN (NOW), OLDER WOMEN'S LIBERATION (OWL) and others the opportunity to present witnesses and testimony.
The hearing should consider legislative changes such as the following:
1. Inclusion of age discrimination under the Civil Rights Act. (It is inherently unfair to lump people into a category, then rule them useless, without consideration of their individual capacities.)
2. Inclusion of age among the concerns of the Equal Employment Opportunity Comm. and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance.
3. Inclusion of age in the Equal Pay Act, the Intergovernmental Personnel Act of 1970, the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act of 1973 (all of which neglect to mention age discrimination), and in all future legislation and government regulations dealing with equal opportunity.
CONCILIATION Recognizing that the battle against discrimination never takes place without the active participation of those most directly involved, we are calling upon older women everywhere to speak up, to file cases, and to take action in our own behalf. We must insist upon equal access to the job market, and to be treated as individuals.
In the long run, our interests coincide with yours. We may be forerunners. because we feel the effects of age discrimination earlier and more severely, but remember that this is one disease to which we are all subject. If you live so long. you will discover that age discrimination will fall on your own head when it turns grey.
TASK FORCE ON OLDER WOMEN
(By Tish Sommers, Coordinator, Oakland, Calif.)
STATEMENT ON PROPOSED 1975 BUDGET
The administration's proposed budget attempts to combat recession by reducing the widow's mite. Instead of curbing those whose profits have soared, or reducing the war expenditures which eroded the value of money in the first place, President Ford recommends further reduction in the pittance allotted to the victims of sexism, racism and ageism. Rather than touch the rich and powerful, he prefers to cut the income of poor old women on shrinking fixed incomes.
Who are the recipients of Supplemental Security Income whose dole would be reduced? Primarily dependent women who outlived “woman's role" and are now considered expendible by a callous government. These single women, mostly widows, are also the ones who would be eliminated from the food stamp program by the administration proposals. “Every one-person household with a monthly income of $154 or more would be dropped from the program," says Sylvia Porter. In addition, a large percentage of those whose meager Social Security payments would be reduced in purchasing power by a 5% limit on the cost of living increase are also women who have outlived their husbands. With decreased incomes and with medical costs soaring, these same widows are now also asked to pay more for the same inadequate health care treatment.
Mr. Ford considers the growth of “uncontrollable" social programs "very ominous." He and his advisors have determined to curb the budget by cutting “transfer payments”, which theoretically convey money from one group of citizens to another. Yet it is precisely because the value of the work of these women has been “transferred” to others all their lives that they are poor today. They have worked without pay in the home and in the community as volunteers, or they have worked at low-paying, low-status jobs to which they were limited, while the benefits of their labor accrued to those now in power.
Elderly widows have already progressed from recession to deep depression, complete with garbage can foraging, diets of dog food, and participation in indoor hreadlines designated as federally financed food programs. One project director of such a program told reporters recently. “The old stereotype of some wino as the usual diner doesn't hold any more. Elderly women on fixed incomes now are the main customers." Further impoverishment of this vulnerable sector can only reflect Malthusian theory that these women don't deserve to continue living. Since they are a burden, let them somehow manage if they can, or die off if they cannot.
Any sensitive person who has stood before a supermarket checkout counter in recent days has asked herself "How do persons on small fixed incomes survive?** If the administration proposals are adopted, the answer will be, they will not.