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Spokane WA bans the box – passes Fair Chance Hiring

After three years of tenacious organizing with I Did The Time, NAACP, Greater Spokane Progress, and our other partners in the Smart Justice Spokane coalition – we won a very important victory!

Last night, Spokane’s City Council “banned the box” and passed Fair Chance Hiring!

Now, private employers within city limits will remove the criminal history box from applications and will be prohibited from advertising jobs in ways that exclude people with records. Employers will assess applicants based on their qualifications and then interview the candidates of their choice. After the interview, employers can run a background check if they desire. Then employers will hire the applicant of their choice. That’s Fair Chance Hiring!

In our PJALS community we believe everyday people have the power to accomplish extraordinary things together. I know you join me in honoring the people with conviction records who made the courageous choice to be publicly vulnerable by sharing their own stories repeatedly, in public, to many audiences, for over 3 years. Courageous choices inspire me! And last night, courageous voices inspired Council Members Beggs, Stuckart, Kinnear, Stratton, and Waldref to make the courageous choice to vote Yes for fair chance hiring.

Check out pictures and quotes from powerful testimony from last night here!

I would like to particularly recognize the leaders of I Did The Time: Layne Pavey, Bill Keizer, and Dom Felix (who is also a member of our PJALS Steering Committee)! This has been an amazing coalition effort with NAACP President Kurtis Robinson and all the members of the NAACP, Anne Martin and Greater Spokane Progress partners, Ron Toston, Terri Anderson of the Tenants Union of Washington, and Rick Eichstadt and the whole team at the Center for Justice, as well as other member groups of Smart Justice Spokane.

Our 3-year campaign has been hard work. Winning last night is the result of people like you showing up at forums, meeting with Council Members, bringing potluck dishes to community events, participating in workshops, practicing telling personal stories, sharing in public for the first time and then again and again, sending emails, talking with friends, and more!

When we build real relationships, center the voices of impacted people, weave a broad coalition, identify shared goals, and mobilize with tenacity, persistence, and consistency to help elected officials see the light or feel the heat – we win!

Here’s a sampling of news coverage – please share!

There was so much powerful testimony that didn’t get captured. Mine is not as powerful as some of the personal stories shared, but I’m going to share it here.

Good evening. I’m Liz Moore, the director of the Peace & Justice Action League of Spokane. Our mission is to engage everyday people to build a just and nonviolent world, by exposing and transforming systems of violence and oppression. In the four years since we co-founded Smart Justice Spokane, I have come to clearly see that the criminal justice system is a system of violence and oppression. And it must be transformed.

In our PJALS community we believe everyday people have the power to accomplish extraordinary things together. So I want to start by honoring the people who made the courageous choice to be publicly vulnerable by sharing their own stories repeatedly, in public, to many audiences, for over 3 years. Courageous choices inspire me and I hope you feel inspired to make a courageous choice tonight to vote Yes for a fair chance hiring.

After 3 years of working for fair chance hiring, I had a revelation today.

When the Burns Institute broke down who’s in our Spokane County jail by ZIP code, we saw that number 1 and number 2 were 99207 and 99201. Families in City Council District 1 and District 2 need fair chance hiring.

In District 1, 80% of Regal elementary students and over 90% of Logan Elementary students are on free and reduced lunch. In District 2, 89.6% of homes elementary students are on free and reduced lunch.

Fair chance hiring is a neighborhood issue!

If we have a chance to reduce barriers to jobs for parents of kids living in poverty we should! When we can remove barriers to help people move out of survival mode, with financial stability and economic security, we should!

I have a family member with a conviction record, and when he came home from jail he deeply wanted to work. He found barriers every way he turned. In the meantime, this reality impacted his whole family, my whole family. Fair chance hiring is a family issue.

Our neighborhoods, our families, need a fair chance and deserve a fair chance.

The time is always right to do what is right! This ordinance is a chance for Spokane to lead with an effective model. We can influence and improve the state Bill to not only ban the Box. We can lift it up to the Spokane standard: fair chance hiring!

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