fresh voices from the front lines of change







Tell us your own story in the comments, please!

Here is a fact: There. Are. No. Jobs. Well, there are approx. 10 "official" job-seekers for each job that opens up. (Remember the underemployed figure, known as "U-6" is 21.7% in California 16.7% nationally.) You have to know someone to get a humiliating job standing on a corner waving a sign. And if you are over 40, things are even worse than that. Don't give me any conservative Rush Limbaugh Ayn Rand dehumanizing nonsense about parasitic lazy people who won't look - there are no jobs.

I'm in Silicon Valley where the official unemployment rate dipped in May to 11.2%. This was, of course, because of so many people just giving up trying to get a job, certainly not because of some wave of hiring. I know so many people here who are over 40, were laid off in the 2000-era dot com crash, still haven't found a regular job, and aren't going to. They have had occasional "contract" positions - which means no benefits, no security, a 15% "self-employment" tax and no unemployment check when the jobs ends. And now, 10 years later they're a lot over 40, and are not going to find a job because employers here won't hire people over 40.

And now there are so many more who lost their jobs in the mass layoffs of 2008-2009 and can't find a job. Almost all of them are also over 40. In fact many were laid off in obvious purges of over-40 workers, offered a small severance that they could only receive if they promised to take no age-discrimination action against the employer. (I don't say "company" because some of these worked at non-profits.)

Most of these people will not find another job, but are too young for Medicare and Social Security.

One Person's Story

I ran into a friend this weekend who I hadn't seen for a couple of years. He had been a computer engineer who had been making 6 figures in the dot com years. Laid off in the 2000 crash he moved in with his parents back in the Midwest and worked in a bakery. he came back out here when things picked up a bit and worked in one "contract" job after another. (Contracting is just a scam to get get around employment laws -- but the government doesn't enforce the rules.) But now he just can't find anything. He managed to get unemployment but now that is running out. He has no health insurance. He can't afford a place to live, "house sits" for people or visits friends, and doesn't know what he is going to do even two days from now.

What is he going to do? Can you tell me? He has one gotten a few interviews and when they are computer-related is always told he is way overqualified, doesn't seem energetic, probably won't be willing to work 20 hours a day, doesn't look like he is up to date on things that are happening with computers, etc. (How many ways can you say "too old?") He's about 45. If things pick up he will get another job. But people just a few years older will not.

Blatant Age Discrimination

Age discrimination is a thing with me. At various times looking for work I've been told I "seemed tired" and things like that. I was even told I "wouldn't be able to get my mind around" how certain code worked, so I wouldn't be able to market it -- when I had designed and written part of it in a previous life. One company here is so notorious they are said to have only 200 over-40 employees out of 20,000. Do a search for "Greyglars" to see who I mean.

But it certainly is not a problem that only exists in Silicon Valley. Tell your own story in the comments, please, get this discussion going!

What are people supposed to do? You can't get Medicare until you are 65, and Social Security until 67. But you can't get a job or health insurance if you are over 50. I wonder what the effect would be if the government started enforcing its own rules on age discrimination and contracting again.

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