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Discrimination Against Aging Workers Probed

November 22, 1985

NEW YORK (AP) _ A tearful 60-year-old sewing machine operator was one of several witnesses who told the governor’s Task Force on Aging about the prejudice of employers in hiring older workers.

Fannie Chin told the City Hall hearing on Thursday that she has gone to a number of apparel manufacturers for jobs, and been rejected at each.

″They can tell the age,″ said Mrs. Chin, tears welling in her eyes. ″...I feel nervous and I don’t feel good because I cannot provide for my family. When my unemployment runs out, I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask for welfare.″

The task force, chaired by City Council President-elect Andrew Stein, is examining what can be done to curb age discrimination in the workplace.

Carolyn Smith, 49, who worked for the city for 17 years before losing her job as assistant personnel director in a reorganization at Harlem Hospital, said employers used subtle code expressions to indicate they do not want older workers.

″I am being told, ’You worked at that place for a long time,‴ she said.

Herbert Bienstock, director of the Queens College-City University of New York Center for Labor and Urban Programs, Research and Analysis, held out some hope for older job hunters.

The number of young workers entering the labor market is expected to decline to about 1.3 million in the early 1990s, down from 3 million a year in 1970, said Bienstock.

″With the continued shrinkage of younger people coming into the labor market, it is inevitable that employers will move to seek out the more mature group,″ he said.

Bienstock referred to ″a lost battalion″ of workers in the older age category. He said among people living in New York City age 55-to-59, close to 70 percent were working or looking for work. By age 65-to-69, an overwhelming proportion in that age category has been pushed out of the labor market as the participation rate goes down to 19 percent.

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