FEBRUARY 3, 1955
NEW YORK—One of the subjects I am constantly being asked to write about is the condition in regard to employing older people in our country. By that I do not mean people in the sixties and seventies but people in their forties.
One letter I have sets forth a truly sad situation and I would like to quote from it:
"Until a year and a half ago my husband worked for a drug chain. He was a white-collar man. His wages were not in the highest brackets but he made a nice, comfortable living. We bought a modest home, accumulated insurance and saved a little money. We were happy and felt a humble sense of security for he was given the understanding that he could work until he wished to retire."
Her husband lost his job and the letter continues: "Since that time we have written over 1,900 letters to drug chains, supermarket chains, drug manufacturers and employment counselors seeking employment. Always the same answer, 'you have a wonderful background, excellent reference, but our retirement plan prevents us from hiring older men.' We have spent close to five thousand dollars in his travelling from Cleveland to New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Florida, Indiana, and many, many other places seeking work. Always we hear the same sad story, 'We are hiring younger men.' We have written government offices when they have advertised needing men for foreign countries, such as Mutual Security Agency, U.S. Information Agency, but with no success.
"Always trying to be 'the hunting dog and not the kennel dog' we both tried selling for small toilet and drug companies, but this has been to our loss. Companies that have anything of great value to sell have young salesmen. We had to sell their products on small commissions and it cost more to travel than could be earned. The worthwhile companies paid the commissions; some we are still waiting for."
Here is another letter: "I am a good secretary, was for many years office manager in charge of 52 clerks, but the business foundered. Even with all that experience, I could never again find a job commensurate with my knowledge and know-how. I am quick, ever-so-willing and able, with no handicaps nor impediments, and while I now DO have a job under working conditions which beggar description—one I finally took in desperation—I work harder and for more people than any younger person would for one moment consider doing. In other words, the people I work for are opportunists, fully aware of the employment situation and are piling on all the work the traffic will bear."
Finally, I have the following: "Now with the big corporation chains dominating the retail field, people cannot dream of someday going into business for themselves. That field is closed to most of us now. We are thrown upon the labor market. And chain stores will employ only young people. We see want ads 'young man wanted' to learn a trade, a business. That means men from 18 to 25 to be hired at a small wage while learning. A man will spend up to five years learning. How much time has he if he will not be hired after forty?"
These letters illustrate a wasteful situation, one on which some hard thinking needs to be done. It seems to me the Social Security agency should come up with some new ideas.