Faith, Labor and Community Groups March Against Hiring Discrimination

Demonstration in Downtown Detroit Kicks Off Fair Chances Campaign
Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Detroit — 200 Communications Workers of America (CWA) activists joined Michigan United members as they marched on city hall to urge the Detroit City Council to expand its ‘Ban the Box’ ordinance to private-sector employers. The ‘Fair Chances for All’ campaign focuses on private employers who receive tax breaks from the city and seeks to postpone questions about criminal records early in the hiring process.

“It will make us better. It will make us a more cohesive community,” said Kelli N. Williams, a CWA activist and state president of the Michigan Coalition of Labor Union Women. “Mass incarceration, the school to prison pipeline, and juvenile delinquency are just a few of the issues plaguing our society. After the punishment, there should not be a period of more punishment. There should be a time when businesses are reaching out and lending a hand to help former prisoners become productive members of society.”

Because a majority of recent job openings are in the private sector, this coalition of labor, faith, civic and business organizations is now working to ensure all Detroiters have an opportunity for gainful employment. Employers would still be allowed to do background checks later in the interview process, but the change would allow applicants to be evaluated on their merits first. Additionally, the ‘Fair Chance’ rules would also take into consideration the age of the criminal offense.

"Just as bankruptcy has given Detroit a fair chance to turn around and become productive again, the same opportunity should be given to returning citizens.” said Rev. Louis Forsythe, who is pastor at Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist church, a member of Michigan United’s Detroit Pastoral Alliance for Change. “This is not only the right thing to do; it is the fair thing to do as we want all citizens to be part of the city of Detroit's comeback story."

A “Fair Chance” employer:

  • Has an equal opportunity employer statement on the initial job application.

  • Does NOT ask applicants to “check the box” inquiring about criminal convictions on the initial job application.

  • Does NOT conduct background check until conditional employment opportunity is offered.

  • Does NOT take into account convicted misdemeanors over three years old and convicted felonies over seven years old.

The momentum is growing and pressure is building on city council to prevent gentrification in Detroit amid rapid growth and investment. More than 100 cities and counties across the country have already adopted similar hiring policies including Kalamazoo where Michigan United recently won a similar effort earlier this year. And President Obama recently announced an executive order doing the same thing at the federal level.

CWA activists were in Detroit this week attending the CWA Next Generation Summit. CWA Next Generation engages members ages 35 and under in key issues including organizing and bargaining rights, voting rights, campaign finance reform, income and racial inequality, fair trade, immigration reform, and LGBTQ rights.