Monday, June 6, 2011

Affirmative Action for Unemployed Workers: What Do You Think?

Over the past month, I have seen numerous studies discussing the abundance of jobs being posted online.  Just today, I read that there were more jobs posted online than at any time since May 2005!  Yet, the number of unemployed workers continues to grow at a staggering rate.

During this same time period, I have read a number of dismal reports which make clear that unemployed workers are not being considered for many (most?) of these job openings.  This has led to large segments of our population remaining unemployed for lengthy periods of time, with seemingly little hope for future employment.  Continued unemployment for a large percentage of Americans is, of course, a major problem. In fact, I would posit that it is the single biggest problem facing our economy today.

Notwithstanding, despite knowledge of the problem, and the gravity of the problem, nothing is being done to fix the problem.  This is so even though it seems to be an acknowledged fact that we are in the midst of the most prolonged and serious unemployment crisis since the Great Depression.

In my view, something needs to be done, but what?

I have in the past opined that making discrimination against the unemployed illegal is an unworkable legal concept.  I am an employee-side lawyer who specializes in asserting and protecting the rights of America's workforce.  So, believe me, if I thought such an anti-discrimination law would be practical or helpful, I would be on board. 

What other options do we have?  America's companies have had plenty of time to invest in the unemployed, and clearly have chosen not to do so.  So, given the gravity of the plight of the unemployed, and the effect that continuing unemployment has on our Country, an Affirmative Action program is, to me, the best way to fix the problem.

Such a program at once is protective across the board, without regard to age, race, disability or education.  Yet, at the same time, can any of us truly deny that older workers, people with disabilities, minority workers and undereducated workers are sometimes among the first to go when companies decide to cut their labor force? 

The wonderful thing, though, as that we need not get into any of that.  All that we need to do is require companies to include a certain percentage of  currently unemployed workers among all of their new hires over the next few years or so. 

I am starting with a Poll to see what fellow citizens think.  Meanwhile, I am reaching out to some local leaders to figure out the pros and cons of such a program.  When this spade work is done, we'll see if we can interest the folks in Harrisburg or perhaps, Washington.

So, your thoughts and ideas are very important to me, and to what I hope will be a productive process.  Please help me by taking my Poll, and by posting your comments.  A grass roots approach will work, if we believe the best interests of our Country are furthered by seeing the unemployed back at work.  And, can anyone deny that is a good thing?

NOTE:  August 30, 2011: By a more than 4-1 vote, readers felt that an Affirmative Action plan was a viable solution to getting unemployed workers back to work.  I am now taking steps to get the attention of legislators in Washington to consider the idea, and am working on a piece of legislation to submit.  If you believe you can help in any way, please Contact Me.

NOTE:  August 30, 2011: Apparently, President Obama is considering getting behind legislation that would make discrimination against the unemployed illegal.  I believe that is a really bad idea.  Click Here for a comprehensive discussion about the problems with such legislation.

John A. Gallagher, Esquire.


Pieter said...

I live in South Africa, but keep an eye on the economics picture in the US as it influences SA greatly. We have race-based Affirmative Action here, but it does not have the desired results because the concept led to all types of negative applications like nepotism.
Has capitalism, in its purest form as applied in the US, failed us. Most definitely YES! Why. Because of greed and power hungry CEO's. Does my assumption have an impact on why unemployed (I assume, qualified, experienced and trained) people do not get employed. I do not know, but I believe the problem (and not the symptoms) should be investigated. If the solution, having the quickest and most effective impact, is affirmative action - so be it. Pieter Fourie

Employment Lawyers said...


Thanks for taking the time and effort to write. I know Affirmative Action has a "bad" connotation here in the States (as well?), so it would be niuce to come up with a more neutral phrase. But, such a plan would me much less "controversial" then race-based AA plans - after all, can anyone deny that it would be good to get the unemployed back to work?

Employment Lawyers said...


Thanks for taking the time and effort to write. I know Affirmative Action has a "bad" connotation here in the States (as well?), so it would be niuce to come up with a more neutral phrase. But, such a plan would me much less "controversial" then race-based AA plans - after all, can anyone deny that it would be good to get the unemployed back to work?

Concerned Citizen said...

Please excuse my ignorance, but could you explain what exactly "Affirmative Action" is?


Employment Lawyers said...

Concerned: An excellent question. Here is what it means:

An Affirmative Action plan is one that requires employers to hire X number of unemployed applicants for every Y number of employed applicants that it hires. I guess you would call it a quota....

Right now, there is a strong suspicion that unemployed workers are not being considered, much less hired, for many job vacancies (rather, many employers are looking to hire only people who are currently employed).

An Affirmative Action Plan would make it illegal for companies to engage in such selective hiring (if that is what they are doing). Going forward, employers would have to regularly report to the US Government that they were hiring at least X number of unemployed workers for every Y number of jobs.

Back in the 70s, Affirmative Action plans were used to insure equality when it came to things such as admission practices to universities. The term has a bad connotation because it seemed that a lot of times more qualified (white) applicants were being denied just so less qualified (black) applicants could be admitted so colleges could meet their quota. Even so, it was in part quite a successful plan.

In any event, requiring companies to hire a certain percentage of unemployed workers to meet a quota would not have the same type of stigma...

I read a lot of 99ers stuff, and many seem to be focusing on getting additional unemployment benefits. I understand that, but it kind of feeds right into the mentality of people who claim that unemployment is just another form of welfare. Besides, what good does it do to get another 3 months of welfare if one's long term goal of getting back to work is only being stifled by a longer unemployment.

If you ask 999ers if they would prefer 3 months of UC benefits versus a job paying them a decent wage, I think almost all would say the job. The concept of Affirmative Action appeals to those 99ers, I would think.

Concerned Citizen said...

Thanks for explaining.

I do think it would be beneficial, but I must emphasize the need for more benefits at a time like this is extremely important as well.

Although I am an advocate for more benefits, I do think that just benefits alone are not going to be enough. Our job advocating does not end at benefits. We advocate for jobs as well.

There needs to be some sort of job creating legislation to go along with it. Benefits are not designed to last forever and despite what some may think, 99ers would much rather have a job than benefits but we need them until jobs are available, and until the UE rate is back down to a reasonable number. I think "affirmative action" would couple nicely with HR 589.

Anonymous said...

I think you are wrong...and It will look bad for the unemployed

Here is what i posted on a CBS video on youtube:

How to solve the problem

Make the EEOC laws apply to kidding So this way CBS news will not consider me "overqualified" or too old, to join their staff Just because I worked at Court TV all during the OJ trial.

Why should we be denied keeping a recent job in our field at the top of the resume even if its for little or no pay?

Employers just Flat out refuse to hire smart people today or else we would be in once heck of a recovery by now....are you listening CBS?

Employment Lawyers said...

Dear Anonymous: I understand, but I believe that making discrimination against the unemployed illegal will never happen. The legislators will not enact a law like that, because tens of thousands of claims each day would be filed, and it would basically shut down our legal system. Think about it - some 14 Million people are looking for work, and every one that does not get a job they believe they are qualified for will file a claim. No matter how noble an idea, practicality will win out. No such problems exist with an affirmative action plan. the mandate will be clear, and the government will be able to easily "see" if discrimination is occurring.