The U.S. Economy Since the

Bi-Centennial

 

In the early 1970’s, the American economy was on a roll.  Yes, we had some inflation but that was because we had full employment.  Union strength was at its highest point and profits and market expansion were at an all time high.  Almost every employee had a contract: if you were a union member you automatically had one; if you were a middle manager or up you had one too.  Employment-at-will was a non issue.  Labor was expensive but fuel was cheap.


Then came the oil embargo in 1974.  Fuel over night went from 25 cents a gallon for regular unleaded gasoline to $1.25 the next day.  Then it kept increasing a few cents weekly at first, then daily.  Fuel was no longer cheap.  Industry was strained.  Factories could no longer afford both expensive labor AND expensive fuel.  Plants and mills were closed.  Factories shuttered.  Unions de-certified.  Middle managers furloughed.  Literally millions were out of work.  And employment-at-will was awakened from its slumber.


During the U.S. Bi-Centennial year, 1976, a unique service was offered to the unemployed: free outplacement help.  There had been such help for individuals for a fee by specialized outplacement firms, paid for by the downsized executive or the former employer.  The States themselves provided help through their unemployment compensation funds.  Of course, this help was provided to get the unemployed off the unemployed compensation rolls, rather than find gainful employment for them, since employers were paying most of the funding.  But when Dr. William Needler started the Job Forum, now named after him, there had been no organization or individuals who provided help for the unemployed with “no strings attached.”  And, according to several professional trainers who travel nationwide, the Dr. William Needler Job Forum is still unique in the entire country.


Six years later, 1982, an unemployed trade association executive, Ron Mulvaney, started a small self-help group for the unemployed at a Brookfield, WI., church in a school room.  This small group later became 40+ of Southeastern Wisconsin, Inc.  It too offered its services for free -- which made it unique among 40 Plus groups nationwide.  Another unique feature among 40 Plus organizations:  it never “carded” anyone, and even the 20+ joined.  40+ of Southeastern Wisconsin, however, let the “youngsters” know that while they were welcome, the focus would continue with the 40+  unemployed and underemployed. Back in 1976, the Job Forum catered to Human Resource professionals as a way to cope with increasing unemployment, but it soon shifted to the unemployed themselves.  It started out as a small group, but soon became a large group and professional trainers would come to inspire, encourage and educate them in the art or science of job seeking (there’s an on-going dispute whether job-seeking is an art or science). 

Dr. Needler believed it was a science; his Ph.D. was in chemistry, not human resources.


Trainers and speakers at the Job Forum always donated their time and still do to this day.  Dr. Needler always encouraged the participants at the Job Forum to form small groups which he called  “Master Mind Alliances.”  But as these were closed groups of 6-10 individuals who would continue meeting as long as anyone was unemployed, new unemployed individuals would form new groups.  Fortunately, 40+ of Southeastern Wisconsin came along in 1982 when the Job Forum was bulging at the seams; 40+ provided the open groups that the Job Forum needed, while the Job Forum provided the expert speakers the 40+ groups needed. 


Hardly anyone in the outplacement industry, whether free or paid, deludes themselves.  They’re in the funeral business.  They make the bodies look good after the employers are done with them:  dress ‘em up, do what you can to put a smile on their face -- because no one would hire a sour puss anyway -- give ‘em some encouraging words and send ‘em off with a fancy resume.    The reality is: no one ever hired a piece of paper and employers discriminate against the unemployed with impunity. There isn’t a law in the land that protects the unemployed against rank discrimination.  Executive head hunter firms  -- the agencies that have the best jobs --  avoid the unemployed like the plague.  Some of them even brag about the thousands of unsolicited, and unopened, resumes they receive a week.  There’s a pool out there.  Whichever agency receives the most unsolicited resumes that week wins.


The better outplacement agencies actually form small groups of job seekers who during their search use peer pressure to get re-employed.  It works.  Dr. Needler’s  Master Mind Alliances were the best.  40+ of Southeastern Wisconsin patterned its groups after Dr. Needler’s but left its groups open, since the line of unemployed is unending.  Thousands upon thousands of job-seekers have graduated the Dr. William Needler Job Forum and 40+, that is, they’ve found good jobs, not the best, but decent.  But Dr. Needler retired (2000), so did Ron Mulvaney (2005).  While the Forum and 40+ continue under the capable leadership of Dennis R. Cherne, the unemployment line continues, too.  So does the carnage. It must stop: delenda est quaestus ad voluntatem.