Friday, September 30, 2011

Discriminating against the unemployed

President Obama's new jobs bill would make it illegal for employers to turn away job applicants just because they're not currently employed. That's the topic of my Scripps Howard column with Ben Boychuk this week. My take:
Workers have rights, too. 
So much of the political discussion in recent years has focused on the liberty of businesses -- usually huge corporations -- to dominate our politics, be free from burdensome regulations, and avoid the entanglements of unions. 
Even in the aftermath of the financial collapse of 2008, Republicans have been unceasing in the efforts to ensure that businesses can do whatever they want to do to turn a profit. If those companies have any responsibility to the broader American community, you'd never know it from GOP rhetoric. 
Obama's proposed law does nothing to reverse that tide. It doesn't keep corporations from spending tons of money on campaigns. It doesn't force them to reduce their own profits in order to clean the air or water. It doesn't require them to accept unions. It makes one demand -- a small demand, all things considered: That companies not overlook smart, hard-working applicants who might benefit their business. 
Understand: The law wouldn't require businesses to hire unemployed workers. And it wouldn't require companies to overlook the fact, say, that Joe Jobseeker is unemployed because he was lousy at his last job. 
It only requires that they not discard Joe's resume because he's unemployed right now -- they have to decide on the merits of his actual job experience. 
There are 14 million unemployed Americans -- and that number doesn't count the jobless citizens who've given up hope. There are four jobseekers for every available position. Obama's proposal gives them almost nothing, except this: A small bit of hope that they don't have to be unemployed forever. Whatever burdens the law imposes on businesses is more than outweighed by the load it lifts off the shoulders of workers. Congress should pass the law. 
A fair break. That's not too much to ask, is it?
Ben says employers would stop hiring because they're afraid of lawsuits.

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