One of the most memorable things for me about the story Howard’s End (other than the visual of walking through the night to arrive in a field of wildflowers at dawn) is the vivid portrayal of a worker’s professional downfall. The character leaves one job because of bad advice from a One Percenter, and then is unable to find another job because he doesn’t already have a job. He’s discriminated against, even though he has skills and experience, simply because he is unemployed. He begins to starve, and in the end is dead.
We might like to think that this kind of predicament was unique to the rigid class hierarchies of Edwardian England, but that’s bosh. Today, in the United States, well-qualified people are finding it difficult to find jobs simply because they don’t have jobs. On the average, people who already have jobs are more likely to be hired for other jobs, even when they’re less experienced and less skilled than unemployed applicants. It doesn’t matter if they lost their previous jobs because the companies they were employed by went bankrupt, or had to downsize because of executive fraud. The workers, through no fault of their own, become regarded as pariahs.
One potential presidential candidate is leading an effort to stop this cruel circle of employment discrimination. Yesterday, Senator Bernard Sanders joined four Democratic senators to introduce S. 1969 – legislation that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of a person’s current unemployment or history of unemployment. Senator Hillary Clinton, who is widely expected to run for President in 2016, has not cosponsored the bill.