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Bernie Sanders Moves To Stop Employment Discrimination Against The Unemployed

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.

12 comments to Bernie Sanders Moves To Stop Employment Discrimination Against The Unemployed

  • Bill

    A worthy effort, but likely to be about as effective as current bans on age, sex and race discrimination in hiring.

  • Dave

    Somebody help me with this. Should a company look for signs of stability in potential employees or not? Granted, not everyone who currently is unemployed is necessarily someone less able to hold down a job (there are many good reasons why someone may be jobless), but it would be a statistical no-brainer to at least assume that more people in the pool of those currently holding jobs are better qualified at doing what it takes to hold a job than those in the pool of the unemployed.

    I have been on both ends of this, and I wouldn’t wish either on anyone. I also understand that lefty folks want everyone to have a “job” of some kind, from each according to his ability etc., but what does Sanders think about the average worker who has to pull the weight of those around them who may be well able to do a job but may not care to apply themselves all that much? Help me understand this. People I have known who lived and worked under the Soviets had this all figured out, and it seems that they had found myriad little ways to “go Galt,” (though that’s not what they called it). I have been told first hand, for what it’s worth, that workers in some industries produced nothing of consequence for weeks at a time and even Managers seemed not to care.

    • Bill

      OK Dave, I’ll bite (but will ignore the “lefty” jibe and the airquoted “job”). As one who has hired and fired and been hired and fired more times than I care to recall, I certainly get what you’re saying about the desirability of searching for stable, productive workers. And maybe there is some correlation between being currently employed and “stability”…although I’ve never seen those data if they exist. But, as I’m sure you’ll agree, society forbids certain actions which, on their face, might seem reasonable, for the simple reason that those actions create dangerous ‘infinite loops’ that harm society overall. A classic example is debtor’s prison…throwing people in prison for not paying their bills doesn’t get the bills paid, in fact it insures that the bills won’t be paid; what it does is impose costs on society and on creditors. So we don’t do it anymore. The same thing, I suggest, goes for refusing to hire the unemployed…all it does is lead to ever-greater unemployment, imposing unnecessary costs on society to no good end.

      But folks who think that banning unemployment discrimination is a bad thing should take heart: probably it will make no difference at all. Age and racial and sex discrimination in employment are rampant in this country (or, at least, in every corporation I’ve ever served in). All you have to do in order to discriminate at will without consequences is to simply keep your mouth shut about it, which is what every bigot manager I’ve ever known does. Anti-discrimination employment laws are a sad joke. “Then why,” I hear someone ask, “add to the joke by banning even more forms of discrimination?” Because it’s the right thing to do. The pledge of allegiance doesn’t celebrate “liberty and expediency for all.”

      • Dave

        Thanks for your comment. I wholeheartedly agree with all you said except for the “right thing to do” part. I’m not sure that governments need to codify everything that is against human nature. This will be just one more thing a company can be sued over, so in their well-meaning efforts to be oh so compliant they will favour the unemployed over the employed, the employed will see their job mobility decrease, and in their well-meaning efforts to assist one grievance group they will have created two. Employed and unemployed will not compete with one another in the area of qualifications but they will now compete with one another in the way of who has the most pull in Washington.

        I suspect that Sanders wants to legislate one more thing the Public will ignore, and one more after that, until critical mass (complete legal confusion in the job marketplace) is achieved and he or his predecessors can then introduce what they really want, which is a guaranteed income for all. I am at least well-read on Socialism though not a Socialist capital S, and it should not be hard to find this in the play book.

        As I see it, the three liberties that will die on this Socialist altar are:

        1. the liberty I have to employ the best I can find
        2. the liberty my employees have to seek mobility
        3. the liberty the unemployed have to experience realistic expectations in life

        One way to really make Sanders’ legislation as futile as it actually is would be to move the Nation to full employment through government policy that values what the the private sector can do, not the airquoted “jobs” I mentioned, but real honest work for everybody who wants it.

        • Bill

          Yes, I’m pretty sure that what Bernie Sanders really seeks is to achieve “complete legal confusion in the job marketplace.” I know this because I’ve seen him with his hat off, and can personally testify that he has horns, just like all the rest of us evil genius liberals perversely bent on the total destruction of Amurka.

          Ad hominem, much?

          • Dave

            Just trying not to be too naive when seeing shades of Cloward-Piven. Bernie doesn’t make me swoon, so I am now a Duck Dynasty Amurkan. Talk about ad hominem.

            • Bill

              If you’re trying not to be too naive, I’m sorry to say you’re doing it wrong. Conflating progressivism with socialism is just straight-up tea-party-lite nonsense (tea-party-heavy would, of course conflate it with communism). Both forms are nothing more than cynical prog-bashing intended to scare naive rubes. Or…maybe you have in your hand a secret list of 50 million progressives who are card-carrying members of the Socialist Party, hmm?

              • Dave

                I’m just a rube I guess. Seems that, as he calls himself a socialist, Bernie’s been listening to the Tea Party people. Perhaps we should email him and tell the doddering ol’ fella that he’s progressive. Might help things along.

                Not trying to be smartalecky, but I am genuinely curious about how this proposed dead-on-arrival bill will further anybody’s agenda, and also what kind of real results this would have for workers if by some miracle it were signed into law. I got a couple of knee-jerk responses with little substance that leave me scratching my head. If only rubes can’t see the manifold wisdom of Bernie Sanders’ proposed bill, all is lost, for we are a nation of rubes, dontcha know? Would that we were a nation of sceptics throughout the political spectrum instead.

              • Bill

                I’m afraid you’re just going to have to scratch your own head, Dave. I can’t scratch it for you.

  • Tor

    Hillary Clinton hasn’t been a senator since 2009…just saying

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