Mandatory Retirement
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed discrimination in many aspects of society, including discrimination in employment based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. In the years following the passing of this historic legislation, Congress looked to also prevent discrimination in employment based on age.
In December 1967, Congress passed the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), and it was immediately signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. The act promised equal employment opportunities to those from age 40-65, with some exceptions in certain professions. In 1978, an amendment increased the protected age limit to 70. The law prohibited discrimination based on age for those within the age range, but many employers continued to have mandatory retirement policies that forced employees to retire at a designated age.
In 1986, an amendment finally removed the upper age limit from ADEA, making mandatory retirement illegal.

 

Mollie’s Retirement
Retirement party 1987 cropped
Mollie West holding a gift she received at her retirement party in 1987.

Mollie, proud of her career and her union, spent her life staying busy. When Mollie reached the age of mandatory retirement at her company, she struggled with the life changing event. She was able to put off retirement for one year by proving financial hardship.

However, in 1987, at the age of 71, Mollie was forced to retire from her job as a printer at the Daily Racing Form after working at the publication for 14 years. Her retirement came just months before the new amendment to the ADEA went into effect, which classified mandatory retirement at any age as discrimination.

The Typographical Union allowed retirees to remain active members of the union. However, Mollie still lost a sense of community belonging after no longer working as a printer. Mollie suffered from extreme depression during this time.

About six months after her retirement, Mollie attempted to commit suicide. She spent several months in the hospital and then a halfway house. Her son, Steve West, flew to Chicago every six weeks to visit his mother and help her through her recovery. Through treatment and support from family and friends, Mollie was eventually able to get through this difficult transition. She increased her involvement in the Coalition of Labor Union Women and the Illinois Labor History Society, finding new purpose in passing on her experience to the next generation.

Mollie was able to live a comfortable life throughout her retirement, which she credited to her longtime membership in the union. Her labor union negotiated contracts with employers that ensured good health benefits and pension plans to provide for employees like Mollie in retirement.

 

Header image: Daily Racing Form staff

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