Demand Your Rights
by Megan French-Marcelin, #WORKINGfuture Campaign Coordinator
March 19, 2019
Over 70,000,000people in the United States have a criminal record. They face an estimated 45,000 barriers and exclusions. The #WORKINGfuture campaign centers the voices and experiences of directly impacted people to fight back against the attack on the livelihoods and well-being of people with records. It is our mission to boldly redefine the standard for economic justice for all workers with a new Bill of Rights.
The undercurrent of every major civil and political rights movement in U.S. history has been the struggle for economic justice, and every movement has been waged by those most impacted. The fight to dismantle incarceration and criminalization is no exception.
What we have seen after decades of the War on Drugs, tough on crime policies, and mass incarceration is an intentional and almost unprecedented theft of wages, skills, safety, and human dignity. Six decades of policymaking has led to economic disinvestment in the same communities most harmed by over-policing and mass criminalization. While millions of workers search for what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called “the dignity of labor,” the 45,000 laws and statutes continue to relegate people to a perpetual second class status.
We say enough.
In 2018, the #WORKINGfuture campaign released the Bill of Rights for Criminalized Workers— a blueprint to restore the civil and human rights of people with records and formerly incarcerated people. We have made significant gains in places like Rhode Island, South Carolina, Michigan, and Ohio as we continue to work with advocates and legislatures to overturn harmful laws and policies. Most recently, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez submitted the Bill of Rights into the congressional record during a hearing for the Fair Chance Act, as an essential document when talking about restoring dignity for people with records.
We are deeply proud of the work we have accomplished so far, but we have so much left to do. Almost every town, city, and state has statutes or laws that prevent people with records from working, finding housing, or supporting their family with a generational wage. A conviction should not be a life sentence. We demand a #WORKINGfuture for all.
- Contact your legislators and demand they consider these Bill of Rights when making legislation that affects people with records.
- If you are in Rhode Island, call your legislator and voice support for House Bill 5863, which would provide opportunities for people with criminal records to obtain occupational licenses.
- If you are in South Carolina, call your legislator and voice support for House Bill 3463 to Ban the Box for state employment.