Senator Lauds Wisconsin-based Mercy Health System, which AARP ranked the top employer for older workers in 2006

WASHINGTON Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI) today announced that the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare has endorsed his Older Worker Opportunity Act (S.1826), legislation designed to address problems faced by both workers who decide to forgo retirement and businesses that seek to retain their experience. This announcement coincides with National Employ Older Workers Week (September 24-30), an annual celebration of the important contributions made by older workers.

I introduced this legislation because we face an historic challenge, and with it, an historic opportunity, said Kohl. We need a 21st century workplace that is a win-win for both older workers and their employers -- an effective strategy for retaining our competitive advantage against other countries facing the same demographic tidal wave. I am pleased that this effort has earned the support of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.

In the groups endorsement letter, President and CEO Barbara Kennelly wrote: The centerpiece of your bill acknowledges the desire of older workers to have a better balance between work and home life by providing a tax benefit for employers who allow them to work part-time. By addressing the concerns of both parties to the employment equation, we believe this bill could help pave the way for significant increases in older worker employment.

Earlier this month, the American Association for Retired Persons (AARP) awarded Mercy Health System, of Janesville, Wisconsin, the top spot in its national survey of the Best Employers for Workers Over 50. Mercy Health System, which has 63 health care facilities across Wisconsin and Illinois, moved up in the rankings from #11 in 2005 to #1 this year.

Mercy Health attracts and retains older workers by providing flexible work options. Its Work-to-Retire Program offers reduced and seasonal work schedules, while maintaining employee benefits, like health insurance. Kohls older worker bill would reward companies, like Mercy Health, that provide flexible work options with benefits to older workers and would encourage other companies to follow suit.

The Older Worker Opportunity Act addresses workplace flexibility, pension, health care, caregiving and job training barriers to working longer. Kohl introduced the legislation, cosponsored by Senators Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Richard Durbin (D-IL), following an Aging Committee hearing he chaired in April 2005 that highlighted major barriers that prevent older Americans from working longer.