Ford Co. Report Fuels Ageism Trend

1912-ford-model-t

What does it mean to make way for Generation Z?

The slogan, “Make Way for Gen Z,” is the “featured” trend in a new report by Ford Motor Company called Ford 15 that  supposedly predicts micro-trends that are expected to influence products and brands for 2015 and beyond.

It is sad but not surprising that Ford’s prognosticators chose to  slant the company report  in a negative and arguably ageist way rather than by using a positive concept like  “Welcome Gen. Z!”

Ford doesn’t really explain who is supposed to make way for Gen Z but it appears obvious that everyone who was born before the mid or late 1990s should be preparing to move to the back of the bus.  It is a common marketing ploy for a business to distinguish a product on the basis of age. Youth is characterized as cool and desirable while age is the opposite. General Motors once  had an advertising slogan called, “This is not your father’s Oldsmobile”

Ford is trying to appear trendy, forward-thinking and to cultivate a youth market by distancing itself from the aging millennial and baby boom generations. Ford celebrates Gen Z as the “first truly global generation, born into an on-demand, technology-driven culture.”   Common negative stereotypes about older people are that they are rigid and slow to change, not global and, especially, that they are not technologically driven.

In my new book, Betrayed: The Legalization of Age Discrimination in the Workplace, I argue that age discrimination in employment is epidemic in America and is fueled by outdated ageist stereotypes and subconscious fears about age-related decline and death.  Ageism is so prevalent that it is trickling down to workers who were once considered young.  Ford is signaling to millennials  that they are no longer young.   Millennials reached adulthood around the year 2000.  That would put them in their 30s today!

I suggest that one of the trends that Ford missed  is the very real and  destructive  trend of ageism in consumer marketing. This trend contributes to ignorance and irrational fear of aging. It pits generations against each other. And for what purpose? To sell cars?

There seems to be an underlying concern in America that the pie is not big enough to be split in an equitable manner – that one generation is robbing another. But this in a country when 16,000 families in America possess $6 trillion in assets – equal to the total wealth of the bottom two-thirds of al American families. The problem is not the pie; it’s the inequitable distribution.

Older Women: Goodbye Retirement?

The Labor Force Participation Rate for Americans over the age of 65 – particularly women – has literally skyrocketed in recent years.

An analysis by Investing.com shows that since January 2000, the rate of participation in the workforce for Americans aged 65 and over soared by 50 percent, including a whopping 67 percent increase for women!

The report, “Structural Trends in Employment by Age Group,” was written by Doug Short, Vice-President of Research for Advisor Perspectives. He specializes in the analysis of long-term trends in economic and market data.

Short  said the “vision of the good life in retirement” that was undergirded by Social Security and Medicare became a “standard expectation” for pre-Boomer generations . He said the reality today is that “an increasing number of Americans aged 65 and over are delaying retirement, and many who did retire have now reentered the workforce.”  Short states the recession, including “two savage market selloffs,”  is driving  the trend.

Age Discrimination

In my new book, Betrayed: The Legalization of Age Discrimination in the Workplace, I show that age discrimination has a direct relationship to poverty in retirement. Older workers often are forced out of their jobs and cannot find new jobs because of overwhelming and blatant age discrimination in hiring. Many are forced to work in low-wage jobs or to  spend down their savings until they can age into early “retirement,” which results in a 25 percent (or more) cut in Social Security benefits for the rest of their lives.

But nobody seems to care.

I note the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 was weak and riddled with loopholes to begin with and has been further eviscerated by the U.S. Supreme Court.  Meanwhile, I show that  the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has virtually ignored a tsunami of age discrimination complaints, President Obama signed an executive order in 2010 that permits the federal government to discriminate against older workers and the U.S. Congress has failed for five years to  pass the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act, which would make it slightly easier (not much) for older workers to successfully sue for age discrimination. Lastly, the organization that many Americans look to for advocacy for older workers, the AARP Foundation, seems more interested in fund-raising than actually advocating for older workers.

Older Women Suffer

According to Money Magazine, women are almost twice as likely as men to live below the poverty line during retirement, with single and minority women struggling the most (see chart).

Life below the poverty line (Source: GAO analysis of Census data for 2012)

Population Male Poverty rate  Female poverty rate
All 65 and older  6.6% 11%
Married 4.7% 4.9%
Widowed 10.1% 14.5%
Divorced 12.2% 17.1%
Separated 10.8% 35.4%
Never married 15.7% 23.2%
White 4.6% 8.6%
Black 13.2% 21.3%
Asian 11.6% 11.9%
Hispanic 19.1% 21.8%
On average, women 65 years and older rely on a median income of around $16,000 a year — roughly $11,000 less than men of the same age, according to a Congressional analysis of Census data. And many older women rely exclusively on Social Security benefits. The reason that older women are plunged into poverty in their old age seems obvious. Women earn less during their lifetime and consequently save less and women  live longer. And, of course, older women suffer from outrageous age discrimination in employment.

Amazon’s Xmas Gift From U.S. Supreme Court

red bow

The nation’s high court ruled unanimously this week that Amazon.com warehouse workers aren’t entitled to pay for the half hour they spend being screened for theft at the end of their work shifts.

It’s another blow against low-wage workers by the most  pro-business, anti-employee U.S. Supreme Court in recent history.

The opinion, authored by Justice Clarence Thomas, held that the time the workers spent waiting to be screened isn’t an integral and indispensable part of their jobs. Thomas writes the workers were hired to take products off the shelves and package them for shipment to Amazon’s customers, not to go through security screenings. The Court ruled the screenings “are not an intrinsic element of retrieving products from warehouse shelves or packaging them for shipment.”

The ruling, in the case of Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. v. Busk, allows the company to force workers to stand in line without pay at the end of each shift to go through the humiliating process of emptying their pockets and walking through metal detectors.  And the company has no incentive to reduce the wait-time by adding staff to expedite the process.  Integrity Staffing Solutions operates two warehouses in Las Vegas and Fernley, NV, that serve as storage and order-filling facilities for the online retail giant Amazon.com.

Two of Integrity’s hourly workers sued the company after it began requiring all workers to go through screening before they left the premises, a policy designed to deter theft of goods. The workers alleged they could spend 20 to 25 minutes in unpaid time waiting to leave their shifts because there weren’t enough screeners.

The high court’s ruling reversed a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which held that Integrity must pay overtime for the screening process because the after-work review was a job requirement that was for the company’s benefit.

The Court ruled that the U.S. Congress passed the Portal-to-Portal Act of 1947 to  exempt employers from liability under the Fair Labor Standards Act  of 1938 for claims based on “activities which are preliminary to or postliminary to” the performance of the principal activities that an employee is employed to perform.  “The security screenings at issue are noncompensable postliminary activities,” ruled the Court.

Thomas notes in his opinion that the U.S. Solicitor General and the U.S. Department of Labor agreed with the Court that the screenings were “noncompensable postliminary activities.”

Of course, Congress could act in response to the Court’s decision and require employers to pay workers for time they are required to spend at work.  Hah!

Meanwhile, around 500 workers at two of German’s Amazon warehouses went on strike Monday morning to protest their pay and working conditions. Union supporters believe the company is misclassifying workers in order to underpay them, and the strikers hope to force the company to raise its starting pay from the current level of nearly $12 an hour. When the Communication Workers of America tried to unionize 400 workers in 2000, Amazon closed the call center they were targeting.

Bah Humbug.

AARP: What’s Wrong with this Picture?

American_Association_of_Retired_Persons_(logo)

Well, I finally heard from the AARP.

Readers may recall that I attempted numerous times without success in September 2014  to contact the leadership of the for-profit AARP and its non-profit advocacy arm, the AARP Foundation, about my new book, Betrayed: The Legalization of Age Discrimination in the Workplace.   The book exposes the failure of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 to protect older workers during and since the Great Recession and documents the suffering of older workers who are forced by epidemic age discrimination into a penurious early retirement.

I got no response from the AARP.  Meanwhile, I wrote articles for the International Federation on Aging and the American Society on Aging (forthcoming) on the connection between age discrimination and problems in retirement.

I was baffled by the  complete silence from AARP leaders – not even a “thank you but get lost.” Like most Americans, I thought the AARP was the nation’s leading advocacy group for older Americans. I wrote an article for this blog on Oct. 6  about the fund-raising emphasis and inane issues listed on the AARP Foundation’s web site – “AARP Foundation invites NASCAR fans to ‘Ride with Jeff” and  “Couples say relationships benefit from volunteering together.”  A few days later, I wrote another article about how other countries advocate for equal rights for older workers.

On Nov. 4, out of the blue, I received an email from Lisa Ryerson, the head of the AARP Foundation, who invited me to contact her.  In a reply email, I asked if she would agree to set up an appointment to discuss the problem of age discrimination.  She forwarded my request to Stuart Cohen, the head of the AARP Foundation’s legal team, who in turn forwarded my request to two other AARP officials, who were nice enough to talk to me for an hour last month.

In our discussion, I outlined my proposed short-term and long-term strategy for addressing the problem of age discrimination, starting with a focus on the passage of the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act (POWADA) and listing age discrimination as an issue to be addressed at the upcoming  White House Conference on Aging.

The POWADA, which has languished in Congress for five long years, would reverse at least some of the damage inflicted on older workers by a 2009 U.S. Supreme Court’s decision, Gross v. FBL Financial Services.  That decision raised the level of proof in age discrimination cases far above that for race or sex discrimination cases.  Older workers  today are literally second class citizens in our nation’s court system, which is completely contrary to basic American concepts of fairness and equal justice under the law.

Meanwhile, age discrimination is so pervasive that it is trickling down to workers in their 30s and 40s who are by any other standard young.  Even the federal government has gotten into the act. President Barack Obama in 2010 signed an executive order establishing the Pathways “Recent Graduates” Program  which allows federal agencies to  bypass older workers and hire  young workers.  How can we expect private employers to obey the law when the federal government doesn’t?

In our discussion, I  equated the failure to pass the POWADA to the “Broken Window” theory, which holds that a broken window in a neighborhood is an invitation to thieves because it shows the neighborhood is overlooked and neglected. If older Americans can’t expect equal rights in the courts, how can they expect equal rights elsewhere?

One of the AARP officials sent me an email a few days later thanking me for my interest but stating that the AARP was already doing some of the things on my list. Whatever that means?

The AARP takes credit every year that Congress fails to cut Social Security. The AARP Foundation monitors Congress and the legal team files amicus or friend of the court briefs in U.S. Supreme Court cases and represents a select few individual s in lawsuits involving age discriminaton. But that obviously is not enough.  If it were, the POWADA would be law.

The POWADA hasn’t even made it out of committee for five years.  The failure to pass the POWADA reflects astounding ignorance and inexcusable neglect. No one  has come forward to oppose the POWADA because that would be like opposing equal rights for older Americans. The immediate passage of the POWADA is the absolute minimum that older workers should expect.  Even that will not improve the situation significantly because the ADEA is still hopelessly flawed. Older workers  are denied the same level of protection that is provided under Title VII. I have advocated scrapping the ADEA and making age a protected class under Title VII.

Hoovers estimates the value of the AARP, Inc., which sells medical insurance and travel products to an estimated 37 million members, to be more than $1.34 billion.  Sholdn’t older Americans be getting more bang from their bucks. What’s wrong with this picture?

%d bloggers like this: