AARP extols beach movies; Silent about discrimination

The AARP has been completely silent about the Obama administration’s recent endorsement of blatant age discrimination in employment by Starbucks, Walmart and Microsoft,  not to mention the hiring program operated by the federal government that blatantly discriminates against older workers.

So what does concern the AARP, which has 37 million members aged 50 and above and describes itself as the leading advocacy group for older Americans?

A Google search on Wednesday for “AARP” led to  AARP.org  (a.k.a. ‘AARP – Health, Travel Deals, Baby Boomers, Over 50, Online Games, Retirement Plans).  The AARP’s main web page today is focused on beach-themed movies and editorial copy that appears to lead to various AARP-branded commercial services that sell products related to caregiving, internet use, etc.

Yes, the AARP is trumpeting  beach movies:  “To mark the 50th anniversary of the Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon classic Beach Blanket Bingo, we take a look at 10 other beach movies that have a lot more to offer than surfboards and bongos.”

Wouldn’t it be nice if the AARP was about more than surfboards and bongos?

Beach

AARP Profits While Older Workers Struggle

If only business was as good to America’s struggling older workers as it is for the AARP.

In 2010, the AARP had assets totaled $2,546,636,000. According to its 2013 Financial Report, the AARP’s assets had grown to $3,026,971,000 in 2012 and $3,393,94,000 in 2013.  By 2014,  the AARP’s  assets totaled $3,585,853,000.

That’s an 40.8 percent rise since 2010.

Meanwhile, a recent AARP survey showed that half of the people ages 45 to 70 who experienced unemployment during the past five years are not currently working. Fifty percent of survey respondents reported they were either unemployed or had dropped out of the labor force. Among those who had become reemployed, nearly half said they were earning less than in their previous jobs.

In my book, Betrayed: The Legalization of Age Discrimination in the Workplace, I show indisputably that older workers are suffering from unaddressed and epidemic age discrimination. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 was weak to begin with and has been eviscerated by the U.S. Supreme Court. Older workers have far less protection than their counterparts under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion and national origin.  My attempts to interest the AARP in working to ensure that older workers obtain equal justice under the law have met a solid wall of disinterest. This, despite the fact that age discrimination in the workplace denies millions of older Americans the right to work and dooms them to poverty or near poverty in their old age.

The AARP calls itself the leading advocate for Americans aged 50 and older. But the AARP also sells the most popular “Medigap” plans in the United States, AARP Medicare Supplement Health Insurance Plans, as well as a huge array of travel services, high tech products and … you name it.

 The AARP’s for-profit enterprise, AARP Services, Inc., is  essentially marketing access generated by its non-profit entity, the AARP Foundation, to 37 million of America’s oldest consumers.

Is it really too much to ask the AARP to use some of its riches to do more than just take surveys  – to act to insure that older workers are treated equally under the law, and not subjected to bogus restructurings and downsizings, chronic unemployment and poverty in old age?  Fifty years of inequality is enough.

The AARP: Surveys but no Solutions

The AARP has been conducting surveys for years showing the existence of epidemic age discrimination in the American workplace and it released yet another one on Monday.

But the AARP seems unwilling to take a position on why the problem of unemployment and under-employment exists for older workers and what to do about it. Although the AARP markets itself as the nation’s leading advocate for Americans age 50 and older, it’s advocacy on this issue has been virtually non-existent. One can’t help but wonder if the AARP’s reticence reflects greater concern for its $3 billion a year profit-making enterprise selling health and travel insurance to retirees than the plight of older workers.

In my recent book, Betrayed: The Legalization of Age Discrimination in the Workplace, I indisputably show that older workers have virtually no protection against age discrimination in the workplace. This is a problem that has been getting worse for fifty years. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 was weak to begin with and has been eviscerated by the U.S. Supreme Court.  I propose repealing the ADEA and making age a protected class under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to insure that older workers receive the same level of protection as workers who are subject to illegal discrimination on the basis of race, sex, national origin and religion. All employment discrimination is based on irrational animus and unfounded stereotypes. There is absolutely no justification for treating older workers differently and, in fact, it is completely contrary to the bedrock principle of U.S. Constitutional that insures all Americans receive equal justice under the law.

Why isn’t the AARP lobbying Congress to provide equal justice for older workers? The AARP surveys generate a lot of wonderful free publicity for the AARP, which makes it appear that the AARP is actually doing something. But the reality is that no one is doing anything about the problem of age discrimination in the workplace, which reached crisis proportions during the Great Recession and is still wreaking havoc on older workers lives. Even the White House Conference on Aging refuses to acknowledge the issue, preferring instead to partner with t he AARP to address “healthy aging.”

For the record, the AARP’s latest survey released Monday shows that half of older workers who experienced unemployment in the last five years are not working: 38% reported they were unemployed and 12% had dropped out of the labor force.

Other findings in the AARP survey are:

  •  Half of Those Who Found Jobs Earn Less: 48% of the reemployed said that they were earning less on their current job than the job they had before they most recently become unemployed. Among the reemployed, half were earning less because they were being paid less, 10% were working fewer hours, and 39% gave both as reasons.
  • Many Settle for Part-Time Work: 41% of those who experienced long-term unemployment are working in part-time jobs.
  • Half Work in a New Occupation: 53% had an occupation different from the one they had prior to becoming unemployed. By way of comparison 63% of the long-term unemployed had a job in a different occupation, while 46% of the short-term unemployed were in a different occupation.
  • Training May Help: 25% of the respondents who landed jobs and participated in training or education programs in the previous five years said it helped a great deal in finding a job.

What else is new?

The survey consisted of polling 2,492 individuals between the ages of 45 to 50 between July and October of 2014.  All of the participants had been unemployed at some time during the past five years  The respondents were part of a randomly selected online panel

Who Owns the Problem of Age Discrimination?

Part of the problem of age discrimination in the workplace is that nobody seems to claim ownership of it.

Folks who have already retired are very interested in the issue but it doesn’t affect them directly anymore, except to the extent that it contributes to health issues and poverty in retirement.

Younger workers don’t seem to comprehend that they are the ones who are most directly affected by age discrimination in the workplace. Of course, they are scrambling to survive and raise families in this precarious pro-business economy where workers generally have few rights.  In my new book, Betrayed: The Legalization of Age Discrimination in the Workplace, I show that the problem of age discrimination is so prevalent in America today that it has become the new normal and is even affecting workers in their 30s. To some extent, lack of awareness is in the nature of youth.  As Aristotle said, “Youth is easily deceived, because it is quick to hope.”

The upcoming White House Conference on Aging has not shown any indication that it will address the epidemic of age discrimination in the workplace, a problem made incrementally worse in 2010 when President Barack Obama signed an executive order allowing federal agencies to discriminate against older workers and hire “recent graduates.”  The Conference issues page  identifies the following themes: healthy aging, long term services and supports, and elder justice (abuse and neglect).  Age discrimination  in employment is no-where mentioned.

My book  documents the inferior treatment accorded under the law to victims of age discrimination in employment. I show that the major federal law that prohibits age discrimination, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, was weak and riddled with loopholes when it was passed by Congress in 1967 and has been eviscerated by the U.S. Supreme Court.  Today, there are virtually no consequences for employers who engage in blatant age discrimination and many incentives to do so (e.g., cost-savings, youthful image).

Why have older workers have been second class citizens  under the law for fifty years? The AARP, which earned $1.34 billion last year selling insurance and travel products to older Americans, claims to be a champion of the rights of older Americans.  Is the AARP really so powerless that it cannot insure that older workers at least have the same protections and rights as other Americans?

The most recent major assault on the ADEA occurred in 2009 when the U.S. Supreme Court in Gross v. FBL Financial Services established a higher standard of proof in ADEA cases than exists under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion and national origin.  That year, a handful of progressive legislators proposed the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act, which would legislatively “fix” the Gross decision. The POWADA has never made it out of committee.

Contact the White House Conference on Aging and urge conference director Nora Super to address the problem of age discrimination in the workplace. The conference email address is info@whaging.gov