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"As you know, I have for some years past been very interested in the problems of our senior citizens. This to me has not been just a matter of my responsibilities as president of the United Steelworkers, but a deeply felt personal concern for the welfare of this significant and growing group in our American society.
“After our convention of September 1956, I was more determined than ever to see to it that we took all possible steps to insure maximum attention to this group.
LOCAL UNIONS' COMMITTEES ON RETIRED WORKERS “However, studies take time and in the meantime, we certainly want to take those steps conducive to the immediate advantage of our retired members. I should like to recommend, therefore, that there be set up in each local union a committee on retired workers similar to those we have for compensation, legislation, and civil rights. It would be the function of these committees to begin working with our older people before they actually retire. By familiarizing themselves with all matters covering pensions, social security, and community services for the senior citizen, they will be able to help them to make the transition to retirement with a minimum of difficulty. Information and an educational program to help them will emanate from our coordinating committee in Washington.
“As a further request, I should like to ask that all of our larger locals which possess halls and the physical facilities to do so, set aside space in our steel centers to serve as the headquarters for meeting places for the retirees. Nothing is more important to their physical and mental well-being than the knowledge that we are still interested in them and are providing a point of contact with their union. Such simple pastimes as cards, checkers, pool, and just the opportunity to get together and reminisce, make their leisure more worthwhile. I know I can count on your cooperation in this matter.
"I am determined to do all in my power as president of the United Steelworkers to assure that the organization takes positive steps to provide a productive, meaningful and dignified retirement for our pensioners."
In our latest check taken in preparation for today's hearings, we find we have approximately 90,000 living retirees. They constitute a body of men that the union is determined will continue to receive our assistance and support in a multiple-level approach to solving the problems they encounter.
We are aware moreover, that pensioners are increasing at the rate of 10,000 a year, with a time likely to be reached in several decades, when there will be one man on the pension rolls for every three active in the union. It is the aim and purpose of our committee to see that programs are developed and administered that keep pace with the needs of our senior steelworkers. Presently, we have a staff of three men who are devoting their full time to these efforts.
We have engaged in some research and have more in mind. A quarterly publication which will eventually be a monthly is published under the auspices of the committee. We have produced a manual on retired workers that has gone to all of our 3,000 local unions in order that their local committees will have immediately available, information that will help them give guidance to their retirees. I would like to note here for the record that a total of 364 of our locals had available recreational facilities: 202 of them offered their union halls for the use of pensioners as of the summer of 1958. Three hundred and twenty-six locals were offering various kinds of preretirement counseling and 471 locals were offering postretirement services. It is our firm belief that when we conduct our next survey these numbers will increase dramatically as we are constantly assisting in the establishment of new activities on a local level.
It has also been within the scope of our duties to develop contacts and cooperate with others experienced in and contributing to the aged and aging field. I might inject there that we consider this committee, Senator McNamara, to be one of the most outstanding of these groups. We have also enjoyed the most splendid relationship with the special staff on aging and the National Committee on Aging and the National Gerontological Society. The United Steelworkers of America never followed a go-it-alone policy and it is our intention to continue to work closely with public and private groups on the Federal, State, and local levels. To this end, I have authorized members of our staff to accept appointments to a number of boards and committees that are doing an outstanding job for the senior citizen.
NEED FOR ACTION
Apropos of this, may I say that I am a disciple of the direct action theory. I share this with President McDonald who agrees with me. While I do not minimize the importance of research and study, I fear it sometimes becomes a substitute for action. In a recent speech I made in Memphis, I pointed out that God knows how many tons of food have been consumed at lunches and dinners held to discuss the problems of the aging. Resolutions are fine and recommendations are wonderful, but we are convinced of the need for tangible and concrete affirmative steps. It strikes me that if we can spend billions shooting at the moon and trying to control space that we ought to be able to squeeze a few hundred million here and there out of the national economy to help those who have given a great deal of their lives to building America. I am not so sure we have as yet proven that we can manage our destiny well enough here on earth to warrant our feeling that we can export to the rest of the universe, the imperfections in our present system. Certainly, as of now, our address is right here and we can do a lot to make it a more pleasant one for the senior portion of population.
PREPARATION FOR RETIREMENT
We, in the Steelworkers, are intensifying our efforts for better preretirement preparation. It is our hope that we can enlist the cooperation of management for the purpose of jointly sponsored preretirement training starting at least 5 years before normal retirement. We are working with scores of our locals and communities in developing better centers for the pensioners. In Baltimore, for example, at the new $750,000 headquarters and auditorium for the Sparrows Point local at Bethlehem Steel, the architect is designing at the locals request a special reading room and recreational facilities for its senior steelworkers. We feel however, that our best efforts will still leave great areas of needs which can only be met through Federal action. Therefore, I want to go on record before this committee, as strongly supporting the principle of Federal legislation, as a necessary and appropriate means of breaking through in difficult areas in which we are deficient.
The President, in his veto of the housing bill, said that there was no need to substitute direct loans from the Treasury for private financing of homes for the elderly. As Senator Sparkman has pointed out there is no private financing arailable. Certainly, even if it were available, if the money was borrowed at high interest rates the rent schedules would be so high that few of those in need of such housing could avail themselves of it. Our investigations among our own people reveal that many would like, and in fact desperately need to get out of houses, now too large for them in their later years, but, because they are property owners and have an income slightly higher than the permissible ceilings, they are not eligible for public housing. No private rental units for pensioners are available at reasonable rates in towns such as Gary, Youngstown, Homestead, etc. Certainly, and I am very much for it, if we can appropriate $300 million for college housing and spend $6 billion a year on a farm program, we can afford at least a $300 million direct loan program for housing for the elderly, as well as liberalization of Federal Housing Administration requirements.
BILLS IN CONGRESS
A number of bills have been introduced in Congress to bar arbitrary discrimination against the aged in employment. We feel something of this sort is very much in order. Many of our people displaced by technological change at 50 or 55 years of age, find it impossible, because of hiring procedures that set an age limit of 35 or 40, to obtain work even though they are physically and mentally capable. This matter of eliminating job discrimination based on age should be a priority item for Government action. Priority should also be given to the need for extensive governmental financing of the retraining and relocating of older workers displaced by automation.
In the field of health and medical care, a bill such as Congressman Forand's H.R. 4700 is perhaps the most crying need of all. Our staff prepared six case studies for the hearings on the Forand bill. They showed conclusively, that even with the Steelworkers enjoying what so many social security beneficiaries do not—that is income from their pensions to supplement their social security and the benefit of conversion privileges for their Blue Cross and Blue Shield they are falling pitifully behind, with rising medical costs at a period of declining income forcing them to liquidate their meager life savings.
Their insurance cost more after retirement and provides lower benefits that do not cover the vast expenses involved in chronic sickness or catastrophic illnesses. It is our belief that this committee, Senator McNamara, will perform a great public service if it did nothing but focus the attention of the Senate and public on this crucial issue and produced action.
I have brought with me copies of some of our material sufficient to supply all of the Senators and will be glad to answer any questions they might like to ask. Thank you very much, gentlemen.
Mr. Cowan. I would like to say, however, that I am fearful of the appellation that these young coworkers have hurled at me as an expert on gerontology.
Now, nothing could be further from the truth.
It is true that I have had the privilege of a long number of years to represent the United Mineworkers and the United Steelworkers of America in many capacities. However, during my tenure of over 60 years in the labor movement, I have never been furnished the opportunity to take a course in gerontology.
Perhaps I could make clear to the committee my lack of knowledge on this subject that your committee is exploring by relating, if permissible, a little story. This story has to do with a couple in the Pittsburgh area, an old steelworker, 73 years of age, who had retired, and an old spinster schoolteacher, 63 years of age who also had retired. They had met at a church function and, after 2 months' courtship, they decided to get married. So they went in to talk the matter of matrimony over with their pastor, and the minister said to John, “John, I am surprised. Why did you make up your mind to get married after so many years?”
He said, “Well, my name is the last of the family and I don't want it to be extinct, and I would like to have an heir."
He said to Mary: "Mary, I am surprised. Why did you make up your mind after so many years to get married?"
She said, "Well, I listened to John's arguments and he has persuaded me. I, too, have made up my mind to have an heir."
And the good minister said, “Well, I am happy to see that you are heir-minded but I am afraid that you are not heir-conditioned."
So I am gerontology-minded but I am gerontologically not conditioned.
WHY THERE IS AN AGING "PROBLEM” However, Senator, with your permission, I would like to say that it is regrettable that when we and most people think and talk of the aged and aging, the word "problem" comes to mind. We believe that a far better way to think of the aged should be rather in terms of their value to society; their social recognition and economic security rather than in terms of a problem.
After all, the great majority of older persons are capable of continuing their self-sufficiency and usefulness to the community if given an opportunity to do so.
It is our task and we feel also the duty of the Federal, State, and local governments to help in assuring that these opportunities are provided and, if there is a problem or problems with respect to our aging people, our senior citizens are not responsible for creating them. They are created by the indifference of society, by failure of Government and industry to place as high a value on our elders as they do on our stock market, large banking interests, or the excessive profit figures of our giant corporations.
RANGE OF AGE DISCRIMINATION
Another phase is that workers' ability should not be determined by chronological age alone for the right to their jobs. It is the spirit and the health and the skill of men and not the number of their years that count.
Consequently, compulsory retirement based on age alone should be abolished and all barriers should be abolished as unjust and inhuman. I am told that the odds are 8 to 1 against a man 40 years
of over nowadays getting a job. Think of it. There is no sadder sight
. on earth than a man 40 or 41 or 42 years of
age, married, three or four children, and he goes out tramping the street from plant to plant and returns, and he looks into the anxious face of his wife. She says, "John, did you get a job?"; and he says, “No, Mary, I am too old.” Too old to get work at the age of 40, 41, and 42, and too young to die. That is a sad picture.
I have done a lot of traveling in the past year and I have met a lot of these fellows between the age of 42 and 50 and these men are justly disturbed and they are depressed and many of them are on the verge of losing their mental balance, and what are we going to do about this? I am sure your committee will give this phase of the problem your consideration.
We have done a lot in this country to conserve our natural resources. We safeguard our lands and our forests and if there is any threat to these resources, we jump in and we act quickly. Yet the human resource, the most important resource of all of them, has to a large extent been sadly ignored and wasted.
Certainly this rapid increase in our older population has made manifest to all of us that we are in the midst of a new social phenomenon which has brought a host of complex perplexing problems that press for solution and they will grow more acute as we advance further into the atomic or automatic age. It is a great challenge but fortunately we here in America do not back away nor run from contests of this kind. We are always ready to meet new challenges, and I say to the members of this committee very solemnly and respectfully that we have reached a stage here in America where the problem of the aged can no longer be ignored. Our older people can no longer be shoved out of sight. Millions of wonderful old parents, grandparents, heretofore neglected, are looking toward the Federal Congress and with outstretched hands they are pleading for your help. It will be the better part of Government, industry, and, yes, union statesmanship to cooperate, work together so that satisfactory solutions to these problems may be found.
Senator McNamara, we of the United Steelworkers want you to know that we are 100 percent behind the work that you and your committee are trying to do.
Mr. O'BRIEN. No, Senator. The statement that we submitted for the record gives an outline of the program we have, our aspirations for the future, and our position on Federal actions in the fields of housing, health, job discrimination, etc., and I think the committee and the press will get from that a very fine view of the United Steel
workers position except that, as Mr. Cowan has pointed out, we strongly feel that the committee's work is valuable and we are looking to the committee to put out reports that will help to crystallize thinking in this field and help to motivate work in this field. Senator McNAMARA. Thank you.
From glancing through your report, I am sure it will be of great value to the committee.
I was a little concerned when Mr. Cowan started out with the statement that these are not really problems of the aged but problems of society. As you went along you referred to these as problems of the aged, too, so that I think we think along the same line. It is a problem of both society and of the aged.
Mr. Cowan. The problem of the aged is catching up with me finally.
Senator McNAMARA. I am going to ask you gentlemen to stay at the table and I am going to call three more witnesses at this point. Perhaps there will be some questions that we can all enter into or some colloquy between you who are here to give testimony, because apparently you are all on the same side today.
Mr. O'BRIEN. With all respect to the committee we had asked the staff director, Mr. Spector, since Mr. Cowan has another commitment, to excuse us.
Senator McNAMARA. Certainly. That is all right. We thought you might enjoy that, which is why we suggested it.
Thank you very much.
Mrs. Jean Wallace Carey, director of the Division on Aging of the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies.
STATEMENT OF MRS. JEAN WALLACE CAREY, DIRECTOR OF DIVI
SION ON AGING, FEDERATION OF PROTESTANT WELFARE AGENCIES, INC.
Mrs. CAREY. Senator McNamara, I am delighted to have been invited to appear here although I am not sure that I belong here today because the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies is a local agency. We are a central coordinating agency. I suspect one of the reasons we were invited is because we do do a very specialized and concentrated job of agency consultation and my responsibility is directed primarily to 56 homes for the aged or aged blind or nonprofit nursing homes that are affiliated with the federation. They tend to be small- or middle-sized homes.
In New York City, I think we sometimes think that all of the agencies are very large ones. This is not the case. We have only 4 where the capacity is in excess of 150 beds.
Our work with boards and staffs of homes for the aged is conducted in three different ways. We hold meetings even as you are holding meetings today for the giving out of information and the exchange of experience. We prepare reports that we hope will be useful and not filed on shelves.
I have brought along with me five reports that we have recently issued as a very practical aid to the administrators of voluntary homes for the aged. They have their appropriateness also for the nursing homes.