Historic Day! Anti-Wage Theft Law and Ban the Box Passed in the DC Council

On Monday, July 14th, the D.C. Council voted on two key pieces of legislation that will strengthen rights for all workers in DC. The Fair Criminal Records Screening Act (also known as “Ban the Box”) will begin to remove barriers to gainful employment for returning citizens or people with arrest records by prohibiting questions about a person’s criminal record on employment applications. The Wage Theft Prevention Act will overhaul wage and hour enforcement in D.C. by creating formal hearings and increased penalties for employers who do not pay their workers what they promise or what DC law requires. DC workers and community members from the Ban the Box and Wage Theft Coalitions held a brief rally before the vote. Both laws passed unanimously! This is a truly monumental day for ALL workers in DC. Thank you ALL for the support you gave to get these laws passed! And congratulations to all those who fought for this...

Big day at DC Council for Wage Theft and Ban the Box bills!

Tuesday was an eventful day at the DC Council!  After years of grassroots organizing, the “Ban the Box” and “Wage Theft” bills were voted on by the DC Council for their first time. The Wage Theft Prevention Act of 2014 aims to put in place stronger policies to deter unscrupulous employers from cheating their employees out of their wages.  As it currently stands, there are few effective ways for workers to recover wages they are owed and little protection for employees that speak out against their bosses wage theft practices.  This system makes it easy for employers to get away with stealing from their workers and creates a disadvantage for businesses that follow the law properly.  DC JwJ and the Wage Theft Coalition have been advocating for the current bill, championed by by Councilmember Vincent Orange, which proposes to change that by putting in place penalties and fines from employers that commit wage theft and creating a better process for workers to recover their money. DC residents, workers, and advocates gathered outside the DC Council at 9:30am for a rally highlight the issues of wage theft and employment discrimination against returning citizens. Before the initial vote on the Ban the Box and Wage Theft Prevention bills, a clear message was sent to councilmembers: “Stand with Workers! Apoye los trabajadores!.” Allies and supporters from the Wage Theft Coalition and Ban the Box advocates filled the council hearing room to highlight the importance of these bills.  Despite strong support from councilmembers, the DC Chamber of Commerce and other business interests groups had been lobbying behind the scenes for amendments they hoped could water down the strength of...

Metro Washington Public Health Association and WMATA workers win a big victory!

The Metro Washington Public Health Association, DC Jobs with Justice, and many others have been pushing Metro to hire and retain workers who have previously served their time in jail or prison. More than 7,000 people return to DC neighborhoods from prison and jail each year, and these residents disproportionately tend to be African-American. These returning citizens have an urgent need for good jobs. Further, there is an urgent need for Metro –  as a publicly funded and large institution – to provide good jobs to DC residents, especially these returning citizens. Two weeks ago, Metro fired Mr. Lescount Jackson, a bus operator who returned to work after a year of cancer treatments. His shop steward immediately filed a grievance. Union and MWPHA members and DC JWJ members circulated a letter demanding his immediate reinstatement that drew over 45 signatures in hours and organized a rally at the Metro Board meeting. On March 26, Metro rehired Mr. Jackson! Mr. Jackson’s friend reported: How grateful he is to have you guys jump to his corner and did not even know him. Shows that you guys just don’t talk the talk. You guys make it happen. Thank you to everyone who signed the letter and planned to rally. Our MWPHA Health Disparities Committee and friends will continue to push Metro to change its hiring policy. There are many others denied employment there. One woman was convicted for riding in a stolen car, lost her Metro job, her house, and moved out of the area, leaving her son. This policy has a racist impact. While Metro applies these policies to all workers,...

DC Jobs with Justice at the “Ban the Box” Hearing!

Councilmember Tommy Wells, chair of the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, held a hearing at the Wilson Building on new legislation to “Ban the Box.”  The bill would prevent employers from asking job candidates about their criminal history on their applications.  The hearing gave the public a chance to testify about the wording on the proposed “Fair Criminal Record Screening Act of 2014” (1). During the 4 hour hearing, almost 40 people gave testimony about the legislation.  The stacked line-up included many public witnesses, as well as advocates from many community organization speaking in support of the bill (2).  Among those who presented were the Reentry Network for Returning Citizens,  DC Employment Justice Center (EJC), Restaurant Opportunity Center (ROC), Bread for City, and our very own Executive Director, Nikki Lewis! As Councilmember Wells explained, DC is estimated to have 60,000 residents with criminal histories and approximately 8,000 returning citizens annually.  With the current background check for employment and housing applications, finding a stable job and place to live is nearly impossible for these formerly incarcerated individuals, as many of the public witnesses conveyed in their testimony.  As a result, residents and family members of those that have had previous contact with the criminal justice system are unfairly forced to suffer unequal discrimination.  With our broken system not providing the opportunity for employment and housing, many end up back in jail. Perhaps because of the strong public support for the bill, Wells expressed that he plans to make sure the bill passes as one of the most comprehensive pieces of ban the box legislation in the nation.  Significantly, however, many testimonies applauded...