The House Education and Labor Committee yesterday approved a bill that would raise from 65 to 70 the minimum age at which workers in private business can be required to retire and would completely eliminate mandatory retirement for federal workers.
The bill was sponsored by Reps. Claude Pepper (D-Fla.) and Paul Findley (R-Ill.) and approved 33 to 0. It would also knock out an exception in the 1967 Age Discrimination and Employment Act that allows labor unions and management to negotiate contracts forcing workers to retire before age 65.
The way the law now stands, workers in private business and in local and state jobs can be forced to retire at 65 and federal workers at 70. In addition to taking the cap off age limits for federal workers, the bill would also direct the Secretary of Labor to prepare a study within two years on the feasibility of eliminating mandatory retirement for workers in the private sector.
Pepper, who is 76 and chairman of the House Select Committee on Aging, said he will ask President Carter to support the bill at a meeting today.
"Sentiment is strong for this bill," Findley said in a telephone interview, "and it's on a bipartisan basis."
He said he hopes for a vote by the full House in early September. The bill was reported to the floor, but committee aides say they expect the Post Office and Civil Service Committee to look at it because it affects federal workers. These aides say they do not expect "substantial opposition."
Findley said a combination of House committee hearings, attention in the national press. Republican interest and pressure from senior citizen groups have made the time "ripe" for passage.
Findley's administrative aide. Bob Wichser, said that with pension funds in "deplorable shape," this bill would help considerably because more people would add to the funds and fewer would receive benefits. He said the Department of Health, Education and Welfare has estimated the bill could save $2 billion over the next five years in Social Security alone.
Peter Turze, a lawyer and aide to Sen. Jacob K. Javits (R-N.Y.), said momentum is building in the Senate for legislation against age discrimination. Javits and several other senators have introduced bills similar to the one the House committee approved yesterday. The Senate Committee on Human resources is expected to hold hearings on them in late July or early August.
Turze said that because more and more American workers are choosing to take early retirement, not that many workers will want to work past 65. John Martin, legislative counsel for the American Association of Retired Persons and U.S. commissioner on aging from 1969 to 1973. Estimated those workers at about 5 to 7 per cent. But, he said, workers should have the choice.