During my many years on this planet (61/2006), I never gave any thought to ageism. But, many years ago, I couldn't understand why I was having so much trouble finding work...including temporary work, etc. During my entire life, I've had no use for bigots and racists, so the issue of ageism never crossed my mind!
Then one day, I read an article in the local newspaper about the subject of ageism. It was a short piece, and it said that discrimination against older workers was the number ONE complaint at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). And, the article went on to say that complaints were rising at a rate of 15% over the past three years! At this time, I was over 50 years of age, and after I read this article, I started to pay more attention to the subject of ageism, and how it might affect me.
A few months later, I read another article that came over the Internet, and was written by a writer at a business magazine. It gave some frightening numbers, with respect to discrimination against older workers. It said that a survey was conducted by an employment agency, who specializes in recruiting older workers and executive positions, etc. Their survey showed an incredible 88% of those over 40 who responded, felt they had been discriminated against when it came to getting a job! And, a chilling 92% of those who already had a job...felt they had been discriminated against, when they were up for a promotion! The question was asked in the article, "Could boomers be discriminating against other boomers?" Anyway you slice it, these are terrible numbers!
After I saw these two articles, I sat up and took notice. I immediately began to think back, as to how ageism could have been one of my problems in my job search. Over a decade or so, I have been laid off from SIX jobs...all for legitimate reasons like companies closing; defense cuts; and down-sizing, etc. I have never been let go because of poor attitude or poor attendance, etc. Over the years, millions of people have lost their jobs, and I have just had more job losses than most...lots of bad luck!
My first job lay-off came, when I worked for a large engineering company, where I had worked for over ten years. This company moved out of town, and was eventually eaten by a bigger fish! This job loss happened when I was in my late forties. After working for several months as a temporary employee, I got a job at a plastics manufacturing company which lasted for about four years, before the company closed...and yet another lay-off.
This was about the time I really started having trouble getting a permanent job, and getting temporary assignments, too! This period of time was very diffecult for me! (See: Falling On Hard Times) After I lost my third job, and like so many others, I had to work as a temporary employee, until something permanent came along. But, what will always amaze me, is the fact that I had to sign up with 24 temporary agencies...that's right...24 temp agencies to survive! As I said earlier, I didn't give ageism a thought until I read the two articles, and now I had to wake up and smell the coffee, and get my head out of the sand.
It was a matter of survival for me! Of the 24 agencies I signed up with, only 12 of them ever called me for a work assignment. And, during this time, I never got any "temp-to-hire" assignments, either! The sign-up dates for most of these agencies had gone back three to five years...and NOTHING...NO CALLS! Even in I called in available every week...I still got NO CALLS! After the 9/11 crisis, is when things really got bad for me, with the economy almost falling apart! I had to start living off credit cards to pay the rent; buy gas; buy groceries. In my panic situation, I called every agency I was signed up with about twice a week, so I could survive!
Being as naive as I was at the time, could it be true that people would discriminate against me and others my age? Later, I would find this to be true , as my horror story would unfold! One day in October, I was called by a temp agency to go work at a printing company, which would only be a three day assignment. I took it, because there was nothing else. This assignment is where I got the definitive answer on whether there was ageism involved in my life or not! And, the answer came in about three months after this assignment was over.
This three day assignment was to have ended on a Friday afternoon, but the supervisor came to me and asked me to come back the following week, in which I did. The company had me all over the production floor helping many regular employees. The week went by, and on the following Friday, the supervisor came to me again, and ask me to come back the following week. This went on for over THREE MONTHS...as I was asked to come back week after week. I couldn't find any other work, so I kept coming back.
During this assignment, I worked the day shift; the swing shift; overtime; came in at 3:30 in the morning for special shipments, etc. So, I did everything they asked me to do...and more! This was a temp-to-hire position, meaning that after a certain period of time working there (usually 60 days) I would be eligible to hire on as a regular employee, and I was happy about that possibility! But, it wasn't to be!
On this job, I was called back by the supervisior from October of that year, until the middle of January of the following year. But, no cigar! As it turned out, when this job was over, I did not get hired on as a regular employee...and there would be NO other assignment waiting for me by the temp agency! This was a dismal time for me, as the thought of ageism overwhelmed my mind at the time, and there was nothing I could do about it! I did a great job for the company, or they would have not kept calling me back for so many months!
I fell deeper and deeper into a black hole of depression! After the printing job was over, I got another assignment with another temp agency, but I had to a little experiment with the issue of ageism...just to satisfy myself! After all, I have a lot of years to work, and I was paranoid about this issue of ageism, etc. Although I was working...every week, I called in available to the temp agency who sent me to the printing company...and after calling in for about three months...I NEVER HEARD FROM THE TEIMP AGENCY AGAIN...and they were still in business!
I guess they didn't have any three day assignments either! I was stunned at what I learned about ageism...the hard way! For those who are not familiar as to how the temporary agencies work, I'll give you an example that could happen at any agency.
Three people call in available for work on a Monday morning, and all are qualified for the job. One person is 25 years old; another is 35 years old and the other is 55 years old. (The temp agency has their files on the screen) Who do you think is going to get the job? I can assure you, it's not going to be the 55 year old! I'm pretty certain of that! So, why did I get the job at the printing company?
Because the job was only supposed to be for three days, and there was probably nobody around they could send...so they sent me! (It's called getting the left-overs) DURING THIS TIME, I WAS IN VERY POOR SHAPE FINANCIALLY, AND FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE, I KNEW THAT AGEISM PLAYED A PART IN MY DOWNFALL!
Because of so many job layoffs, I had to work as a temporary employee longer than I would have liked. And, as I thought back at some of the incidents, job interviews, and assignments during this long period of time, I knew that ageism played a part in my downfall, but I would never know by who; when; where; why and I would never be able to do anything about it!
Because of my experiences over a long period of time, I prepared about a 30 page booklet about my work history and experiences. In the booklet, I talked about how the temporary industry has grown, and how the government has to be more watchful as to what's going on, etc. I hand-carried the booklet to the EEOC office downtown, and guess what? I never heard from the EEOC concerning the matter! I think the EEOC is the problem...and not the solution!
Recently, I received this email from a fellow from the state of Wisconsin (USA);
"Dear Jerry...I read your article that I guess you wrote several years ago, and I did a search on older workers discrimination, and I have had many of the same experiences as you. I'm 57 years of age, and I have had a lot of two to three day jobs. I can tell now, when I go to a job place and see that 90% of the people are 25 years old, that I will be out of there in a couple of weeks. One guy I worked with, told me that he would be hired on after a year on the job, so he asked the plant manager. The PM sent him to talk to 'Jerry' and he sent him to 'Bob'. On Friday, he was told that he was out of a job, because he didn't understand the job! That came as a shock to him, because he had trained three guys over that year on how to run the machine he ran. I have noticed, that when a job is open, the temp service will send 5 guys. Then, three will be let go after a few days. These are the older ones, and they keep the younger ones. It happens too often to be a coincidence. Ric"
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