Contact: Marian Hammond, (971) 570-7946, firstname.lastname@example.org
Fair Chance for All Coalition delivered 7,000+ signatures from Portlanders who support removing questions about criminal history from job applications
(Portland, Ore.)—March 11, 2015—Community advocates, labor leaders and small business owners testified today at a public hearing held by the Portland City Council in support of a proposal to ‘ban the box’. The proposed change to city code would prohibit all employers in Portland from asking about criminal past on job applications, with exceptions for public safety positions.
A broad coalition submitted testimony in support of the resolution, including: Michael Alexander, President and CEO of Portland Urban League; Emmanuel Price, founder and executive director of Second Chances Are for Every One; Tom Chamberlain, President of Oregon AFL-CIO; and Jim Houser, owner of local small business Hawthorne Auto Clinic.
The Fair Chance for All coalition—a group of more than 50 organizations—also presented more than 7,000 petition signatures from Oregonians who support banning the box.
More than 32,000 people in Oregon are currently incarcerated or on community supervision and face barriers to housing and jobs. Almost 11 percent of incarcerated Oregonians is African American, despite that fact that the state’s overall population is just 2 percent.
“Our criminal justice system convicts and incarcerates African Americans and other people of color in numbers that far exceed our percentage in the state, and this inequity is compounded by employment barriers that impact with criminal histories out of jobs,” said Michael Alexander, President and CEO of the Portland Urban League.
Employment is one of the most important influences for decreasing recidivism. Two years after release, twice as many employed people with records had avoided running into trouble with the law, compared to their unemployed counterparts. A steady job provides not just financial resource, but also connections to a new community that can help reduce the risk of recidivism.
“I served close to five years in Oregon Correctional facilities,” said Price. “It’s been ten years now since I returned to society and still struggle with finding employment. Not because I’m ill equipped or not qualified, but because my background inhibits my forward progress. That’s why SCAFE was created to assist others overcoming barriers to employment.”
The code change would allow employers to ask about an individual’s conviction history, but just later in the hiring process, after the person has met the minimum qualifications for the job. It would not apply to law enforcement positions and other jobs that, by law, require a criminal background check.
“Twenty-eight years go, I hired an employee who was upfront about his criminal history. He recently retired after nearly three decades as one of my best employees,” said Houser. “As a small business owner, I know that giving people a second chance to succeed boosts the economy and helps put communities and families back together.”
“The box” has already been removed from applications for City of Portland jobs in 2014 and Multnomah County jobs in 2007. If the council adopts the code change for all employers within city limits, Portland will join more than 50 jurisdictions and 10 states that have already banned the box, including: Massachusetts, Connecticut, California, Minnesota, Hawaii, New Mexico and Colorado.
The Oregon Legislature is currently considering House Bill 3025, currently awaiting hearing in the House Committee on Business and Labor, would make it illegal for all employers in Oregon to use job application forms to ask about criminal history or disqualify an applicant from employment because of a prior conviction unless the conviction is job-related.