Opportunity for Every Worker: Toward a Fair Chance Workforce in the Bay Area

The Fair Chance Workforce System project was initiated by Rise Together, the Insight Center for Community Economic Development and Urban Strategies Council through a shared commitment to ensuring all people in the Bay Area have the opportunity to provide for themselves and their family, regardless of race, gender or status. Identified as a priority by Rise Together’s Opportunity for Every Worker workgroup, the project focuses on increasing the availability and accessibility of proven workforce development and employment opportunities for individuals with a criminal record in order to improve their economic stability and well-being, with a focus on Alameda, Contra Costa, and Solano Counties. The resulting report and recommendations are designed to be a guide for philanthropy, government, and local communities seeking to increase employment for individuals with a criminal record.

When justice-impacted people are hired, they perform just as – if not better than – their workplace peers. Economic and employment research conf rm that employees with records have better retention rates, more loyalty, and lower turnover (ACLU/ Trone, 2017). Despite these potential gains for employers and businesses, systemic barriers to employment for the justice impacted persist. The harms of policies, practices, and narratives discriminating against individuals with records are even greater for people of color. The collective cost of these barriers is stunning: In addition to losing an estimated $87 billion per year in gross domestic production nationwide, more than half a million capable, qualified people are left out of the national workforce – and, as a result, are more susceptible to poverty, homelessness, and cycles of debt. In recent years, reforms such as California’s Ban the Box policy have emerged from a groundswell of advocacy to improve outcomes for justice-impacted workers. Nonetheless, much still needs to be done to ensure that all Bay Area residents have a true “Fair Chance,” regardless of race, gender, or record status.

Enacted in 2018, California’s statewide Ban the Box (BTB) policy delays any use of a background check or inquiry into conviction history until later in the hiring process – after a candidate has met job qualifications. Despite the passage of BTB, and even with the Bay Area’s currently low unemployment rate of 3 percent, persistent obstacles to stable employment remain for people with criminal records. At virtually every stage of the hiring process, justice impacted applicants can be denied a job based on their record alone – either through employer practice, licensing restrictions, or both. In California, over 4,800 laws impose collateral consequences on people with arrest or criminal records, most of which have no benefit or relationship to public safety. Many of these laws exist solely to make it harder for people to get good jobs, or any job at all.

Click here to read the Executive Summary.

Click here to read the full report (PDF).

Remaking America’s Promise for the Next Generation

Anne Price | Medium

Last week, presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren unveiled a sweeping plan to tackle a $1.5 trillion student debt crisis to address our higher education system that is holding back generations of Americans. Her proposal calls for wiping out student debt of up to $50,000 for 42 million working and middle class Americans. Moreover, 90 percent of those who are burdened with student debt but dropped out of college would also benefit. The proposal makes all public colleges’ tuition and fees free, adds $100 billion in Pell grants over ten years, and creates a $50 billion fund for HBCUs (historically black colleges) and other minority-serving institutions. Senator Warren plans to pay for it with an annual 2 percent tax on families with $50 million or more in wealth.

Warren’s plan is sparking a debate about the scale of federal support needed to address the student loan crisis and surfacing narratives about fairness and deservedness. It also provides us the opportunity to examine how corporate power and anti-Black racism is depriving an entire generation of young people from getting ahead, whether that’s buying a home, saving for retirement, starting a family, or launching a business. Student debt ultimately serves as a multigenerational debt anchor that causes unrelenting stress, financial strain, and a spiraling cycle of debt.

Who carries debt and who defaults on their loans is racialized and gendered. About 11.5 percent of student loans are in default. According to the New York Federal Reserve, borrowers between the ages of 40 to 49 have the worst delinquency rates. It is estimated that in the next five years, 40 percent of borrowers are likely to default.

Last month we released a report about millennial women — defined as those born between 1980 and 1997— showing that two-thirds of student debt ($900 billion) is owed by women. And roughly $700 billion of outstanding loan balances are held by Americans under 40.

Click here to read the full piece on Medium.

Episode 22: Rakeen Mabud

Listen to Rakeen Mabud and Jhumpa Bhattacharya discuss mandatory arbitration and other features of the 21st century workplace that are decreasing worker power and driving negative economic outcomes for women and people of color.


What and who is an employee in the 21st century? How are fissured workplaces, credentialization, and forced arbitration policies changing the nature of work? And what are workers and advocates doing to push back?

Rakeen Mabud of the Roosevelt Institute joined Jhumpa Bhattacharya on the podcast to dig into these issues and more.

Rakeen is a Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, where she works on labor market policies, the future of work, and the role that race and gender play in our economy and society. She is also a standing contributor to Forbes, where she writes about the 21st century economy, and she previously worked on domestic microeconomic policy at the Treasury Department under the Obama administration.

Rakeen joined Jhumpa to share her research on what has become a widespread feature of the labor market: mandatory arbitration, the practice of requiring employees to settle workplace disputes outside of the courts and behind closed doors. For employers, this practice effectively amounts to a “get out of jail free card” for resolving workplace disputes, preventing workers from pursuing justice in the courts or even sharing out about their experience.

Rakeen and Jhumpa discussed this and other troubling characteristics of today’s labor market, from monopsony to the explosive growth of contract workers, that contribute to decreased worker power and have an outsized impact on millennial women and people of color.

Reflecting on these challenges and the path ahead, Rakeen shared her optimism in being part of a growing array of young and diverse voices, from organizers to policy wonks, who are tackling these issues head on with an eye for deep-seated, structural change.

To listen to the full discussion, use the audio player above or subscribe to the Hidden Truths podcast on iTunes.


To learn more about Rakeen’s work, follow her at the Roosevelt Institute, Forbes, and on Twitter.

Fresh, Feminist Voices are Exactly What Our Nation Needs Right Now

Jhumpa Bhattacharya | Ms. Magazine

Paul Ryan’s advice to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on navigating Capitol Hill was to lay low and avoid ruffling any feathers. Thankfully, she didn’t listen to a thing he said—and neither did Rep. Ilhan Omar, one of many of AOC’s freshman colleagues in the most distinctly diverse and female Congress in American history.

Instead, they’ve scorched their own brilliant paths forward by doing the exact opposite: AOC has become a driving force, in just a matter of months in office, behind the Green New Deal; Omar stirred controversy, most recently, for speaking up against anti-Muslim sentiment in politics.

Both women are forcing much needed national conversations on complex issues never before thought possible—and whether you agree with their politics or not, it’s remarkable to see how they’ve fought to make their voices and perspectives matter and electrified and motivated a base of support which cannot be ignored.

“Clipped Wings,” a report on the millennial wealth gap for women, showcases just how important their voices are.

Click here to read her full op-ed.

The Payback Problem

Our new report, released in collaboration with PolicyLinkThe San Francisco Financial Justice ProjectTipping Point Community and Western Center on Law & Poverty, reveals that taking parents’ child support payments to pay back the cost of public assistance harms California’s low-income parents and children.

According to the report, The Payback Problem, inequitable public assistance payback policies take money away from children in poverty, set low-income parents up to fail, and discourage parents from making payments at all. The report also recommends reforms that have proven successful in other states.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of California children living in poverty do not receive all of the child support payments made by their parents. For low-income parents, most of their child support payments do not go to their children. Instead, the majority of their payments go to the government to pay back the cost of public assistance. In California, more than 70 percent of outstanding child support debt is owed to the government—not children.

Low-income parents should not be a source of revenue for our safety net. When families cannot pay they face punitive penalties including incarceration, suspension of driver’s licenses, and high-interest rates which balloon the debt they owe the government.

In addition, families of color are disproportionately impacted by public assistance payback policies. Due to persistent barriers to economic security, 85 percent of parents who owe child support are men of color and more than 75 percent of the children impacted by public assistance payback requirements are children of color.

There should be no price tag on our safety net for low-income families. Recent rules and reforms at the federal level encourage states to send more of parents’ child support payments through to their children. The report proposes reforms, many of which have proven successful in other states and are currently being put forward by members of the California Legislature.

Click here to download and read the full report (PDF).


WEBINAR
Join us on Tuesday, April 30 to learn more about the payback problem, its negative impact on low-income families of color, and how you can help advance reforms.

WHAT: The Payback Problem Webinar

WHEN: Tuesday, April 30 from 11:00am – 12:00pm PDT

REGISTER: Click here to learn more and register to attend.

Opinion: California should eliminate court administrative fees

By Holly Mitchell and Jhumpa Bhattacharya | East Bay Times

The way our criminal justice system operates is changing. Community members, policy advocates and a growing number of judges recognize that criminal fines and fees are unjust and harm low-income people and communities of color.

California is poised to follow the lead of Alameda County and San Francisco in addressing this issue by passing SB 144, the Families Over Fees Act. The bill would eliminate county-imposed and other criminal administrative fees throughout California, and discharge all related debt.

The bill is co-sponsored by a coalition of organizations, including ACLU Southern and Northern California, A New Way of Life, The Anti-Recidivism Coalition, East Bay Community Law Center, Ella Baker Center, Homeboy Industries, Insight Center for Community Economic Development, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children and PolicyLink.

Despite its progressive reputation, California imposes financial burdens and barriers — including administrative fees, surcharges, and penalty assessments — on people who have gone through the legal system and are striving to move forward with their lives. These additional impositions are extraordinarily burdensome and undermine the economic security of low-income families and families of color who simply cannot afford to pay them.

Click here to read the full opinion piece.

Centering Women of Color is the Path Forward to Economic Security for Millennials

By Jhumpa Bhattacharya | Medium

We are living in a remarkable time for the fight for gender equity. From #MeToo and #TimesUp to the unprecedented wave of women elected to congressional office, women across generations are stepping into their power and working to change the injustices they face every day. Tired of living in a society overrun by outdated patriarchal norms and policies, women are organizing and striving to make a better future for themselves and the generations to come.

New research backs up why these movements are vital, and why we need more women in positions of power to ensure discussions and decisions around policies like guaranteed income meet the needs of women of color.

Clipped Wings, a new report produced by Asset Funders Network (AFN), in collaboration with the Closing the Women’s Wealth Gap (CWWG) initiative and the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, highlights how our economic and social policies are based on racist and sexist ideologies and practices, and are in dire need of transformation in order to keep up with the realities of the millennial experience.

Click here to read the full piece.

Clipped Wings: Closing the Wealth Gap for Millennial Women

Our new report, released in collaboration with Asset Funders Network (AFN) and the Closing the Women’s Wealth Gap (CWWG), reveals the current economic reality for millennial women and the primary drivers contributing to their wealth inequities.

The report, Clipped Wings: Closing the Wealth Gap for Millennial Women, is the second in a series of publications that builds on AFN’s 2015 publication, Women & Wealth, exploring how the gender wealth gap impacts women.

Today, there are about 40 million millennial women, representing 31.5% of the female population in the U.S. Millennial women do not benefit from many economic policies and systems designed by, and built to meet the needs of, men as primary breadwinners. Millennial women came of age during the Great Recession, the rise of mass incarceration, unprecedented student debt levels, and changing workforce dynamics. All of these factors contribute to the fact that millennial women are 37% more likely than Generation Xers (those born between 1965 and 1984) to be living below the federal poverty line and are more likely to be underemployed or unemployed than previous generations.

Millennial women are part of the most diverse generation the U.S. has ever seen with 44% being women of color, making it increasingly important to address consistent racial and ethnic wealth inequities in this generation. Additionally, immigrant millennial women, particularly Latinx women, are often key financial contributors to their parents and extended families, which directly impacts their economic stability.

Click here to read the press release.

Click here to watch and listen to a webinar about the report.

Click here to download the full report (PDF).

The Distancing of Blackness in Miami

By Anne Price, Medium

Last week in partnership with the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity at Duke University and The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at The Ohio State University, we released a groundbreaking report, The Color of Wealth in Miami. The report examines and compares the economic positions of U.S. descendant Blacks, Caribbean Blacks, Cubans, Puerto Ricans, South Americans and other Latinx groups with whites and Latinx people who identify as white in the greater Miami area. Oscar Londoño, a staff attorney at the Community Justice Project, notes that our report “shows how whiteness or proximity to whiteness has real life significance on who has political power and economic well-being.”

The research makes clear that people who identify as Black, regardless if they are Cuban, Colombian or from another Latinx group, fare worse across many economic indicators than white Americans and Latinx groups that identify as white.

Perhaps there is no other region that operates racially quite like greater Miami does with its diverse Latinx and Black populations. For example, it is home to the largest share of Colombian, Honduran, Peruvian, and Haitian populations in the country. In addition, the region includes one of the nation’s emergent Latinx demographic majority counties, Miami-Dade, with 65 percent of its population identifying as Latinx.

Click here to read the full piece.

Photo Credit: City of Miami Collection, CM-2–00478 Sir John Hotel, a night club in Overtown, taken on May 11, 1962

Episode 21: Surina Khan

Listen to Jhumpa Bhattacharya and Surina Khan discuss the power of women-led public policy advocacy while exploring the groundbreaking, intersectional work of the Women’s Foundation of California.


“When you put women—whether we’re cisgender women or trans women—in charge of our own resources, you really begin to see powerful accomplishments and gains,” says Surina Khan, the CEO of the Women’s Foundation of California.

A long-time social sector leader and advocate for women’s and LGBTQ rights, Surina joined Jhumpa Bhattacharya on the podcast to discuss the innovative work of the Women’s Foundation of California, including its transformative Women’s Policy Institute (WIP), which has trained more than 500 grassroots leaders in state and local policy advocacy—leading to 35 (and counting) policy wins for women and girls across the state.

Surina and Jhumpa discussed the history of the Women’s Foundation of California; the past and present philanthropic landscape for funding gender justice work; and powerful case studies of the impact of WPI leaders and alumni on women, girls, and LGBTQ communities in California and beyond.

They also discussed intersectionality as an important framework for advancing multi-issue advocacy and reform, and they highlighted opportunities for California grassroots leaders to get involved at the state and local advocacy levels through the Women’s Policy Institute.

To listen to the full discussion, use the audio player above or subscribe to the Hidden Truths podcast on iTunes.


To learn more about the Women’s Foundation of California, visit womensfoundca.org and follow the foundation on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

The Women’s Policy Institute accepts applications for its respective state and local advocacy programs on an annual basis. Visit womensfoundca.org/policy/wpi/ to learn more.