The initial shock of the coronavirus and mass unemployment crisis is beginning to wear off. It is being replaced by a deepening sense of threat and dread among the tens of millions of aging workers and retirees who were already facing age discrimination in the workplace and a decade or more of unsustainable retirements.
A torrent of media reports captures the daily toll. Tens of thousands perish in nursing homes, meager savings and 401k accounts are being raided to house and feed families, millions of longtime employees are fired and furloughed despite their years of loyal service – and the perennial chatter about slashing the Social Security lifeline rears its head.
This is the time for robust, even aggressive advocacy to tackle the age discrimination that threatens the future of aging workers and retirees. Despite this obvious and growing need, well-known organizations for the elderly recycle CDC guidance on social distancing and handwashing, offer job search tips when available openings are at their lowest level in a century and roll out new discount programs for a broad range of consumer products.
These are useful services in normal times. But we left normal in March and will not be returning there, despite much wishful thinking, anytime soon. We are facing a host of new challenges on top of an already broken work-and-retirement system. If we are to serve the true short- and long-term interests of America’s elderly and aging, all of us aging advocates have no choice but to up our game.
We launched Respectful Exits in 2017 to address head-on the outdated work and career trajectory that neglected the development of its long-term workforce and then routinely discarded employees in their late 50s or early 60s, to be replaced by newer models. The impact of this practice was intensified by the erosion of pensions, a low savings rate and the enhanced longevity that added a decade to the average lifespan. The result: diminished or unsustainable retirements.
We envisioned a decade-long campaign to achieve a set of changes in employer policy and practice. COVID-19 has shredded that timeline and complicated the problem. We have adapted by sharpening our focus on three key goals for this year and building out our supporter organization so that it can more powerfully express “the voice of aging workers.” We ask you to join us in:
1.Putting an end to the assumption that 65 is the “sell-by” date for American workers.
Millions needed the choice to work longer before the pandemic; now it’s absolutely essential
2. Tracking age discrimination practices in the firing/re-hiring process
The crucial first step in fighting discrimination in employment is collecting real time data
3. Securing the public commitment of all 2020 political candidates to refuse cuts to Social Security
Social Security is the income for tens of millions and can no longer be a political football
Join our campaign and build a better future at https://www.respectfulexits.org/invest/. Find more information about our Social Security campaign on our Respectful Exits Facebook page.