Union Statement Supporting The ‘Ban The Box’ Ordinance

On March 13, 2013 the Richmond General Membership Branch of the IWW voted to endorse the Richmond City Council ordinance to “ban the box” on applications for city jobs that inquire about an applicants criminal conviction history.  Below is our statement.

Re: Ordinance No. 2013-40

“To amend Ord. No. 2013-40, which amends ch. 2, art. VI, div. 1 of the City Code by adding therein a new section 2-1119 for the purpose of prohibiting the inclusion of questions pertaining to an applicant’s criminal conviction history on initial applications for City employment, for the purpose of providing for certain exceptions to such prohibition.  (As Amended)”

The Richmond, Virginia Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) would like to extend its support for the ordinance No. 2013-40, which removes from all initial applications for employment with the City of Richmond the question pertaining to the applicant’s criminal conviction history.

We believe this is a positive step towards recognizing and addressing the roots of poverty in Richmond and the nation at large. According to the ‘Mayors Anti-Poverty Commission Report’ published in January 2013, of the 35,000 Richmond city residents who fall below the poverty line at least 16,800 of those residents are unemployed and 15,600 are under-employed, working only part-time or part-year. In the same report, the commission offers recommendations to ending poverty that include removing “…barriers to escaping poverty and strengthening low income households and families.”

One such barrier to escaping poverty is the stigma attached to being labeled a “felon.” This condition contributes to what is called recidivism, the tragic cycle of imprisonment and re-arrest. Recidivism often hinges upon an individual’s ability to find employment and reintegrate into the economy. If an individual is unable to accomplish this, they are significantly more likely to return to prison, making it even more difficult for them and their family to escape poverty.

While this ordinance doesn’t expunge that label from their record, it does provide an opportunity for the applicant to get their foot in the door with an interview and let their own words testify to their employability, rather than an ambiguous mark on a piece of paper.

In closing, we would like to thank you, Councilperson Mosby, for sponsoring this ordinance and thank you, Vice President Robertson, Councilpersons Agelasto, Newbille, & Trammel, for co-sponsoring it. We strongly urge City Council to approve this ordinance, and consider expanding its scope to the private sector.  Such a measure would further place us on the path to addressing the underlying structural causes of poverty in our city.

Sincerely,

Industrial Workers of the World
Richmond, Virginia General Membership Branch

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