Whether you’re a 20-something fresh out of college looking for work or near retirement age and can’t find a job at your skill level, the trials and tribulations of unemployment are very real. It’s an issue that most people face in their adult lives and an age old problem without an easy solutions.
Finding a job can be especially challenging if you have a criminal record. In the city of Holyoke, a local advocacy group, Neighbor to Neighbor, has been calling for the City Council to adopt the Fair Chance Policy aka “Ban the Box” for applicants with criminal records applying for city jobs.
The Fair Chance Policy has been initiated for state jobs, but doesn’t include the private sector. In Holyoke, Ban the Box also wouldn’t include companies or local businesses based in the city.
It makes sense to allow people with a criminal record the chance to interview for a job based on their merits as a prospective employee and not they’ve served time for possession of marijuana or any other non-violent crime. On the flip side, an employer does have the right to know whether the person they’re hiring embezzled money from a company they worked at in the past.
Jacqueline Velez, a Neighbor to Neighbor organizer in Holyoke, agreed there needs to be some level of scrutiny for people with criminal records applying to jobs.
“I think that when it’s a highly sensitive position, if the person was convicted for selling drugs then I don’t think they’re going to be able to prescribe meds or do what a pharmacy technician does. If it has to do with finances, if it’s someone who robbed a bank then I guess that would be the limit,” she said.
City Councilor Nelson Roman, who filed the fair chance policy order in Holyoke, said Boston and Worcester have already adopted similar ordinances and if it passed one of the benefits is that subcontractors with the city would also need to put the policy in place.
“Unless you’re dealing with children, finances, or the elderly, you’re not required to check that box off whatsoever,” Roman said.
This could be one solution to help lower unemployment for people in Holyoke who have criminal record.
But there are issues with unemployment at the state level as well. The unemployment rate in Massachusetts rose from 3.9 percent in April to 4.2 percent in May, despite the state adding 2,900 jobs last month, according to the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development.
Although unemployment is a nuanced issue without a quick fix, there are some practical ways state officials could help reduce the unemployment rate.
Investing in Mass Transit: The transit system in Massachusetts is antiquated and, like the rest of the U.S., is behind other countries when it comes to high speed rail and better forms of transportation. Investing in a network of mass transit not only creates more jobs, but would also help reduce the state’s carbon footprint — less cars on the road means less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Improve infrastructure: There’s a lot of aging infrastructure across the state from bridges that need repairing to energy systems, and water supply systems that are outdated and need replacing. If the state put more money towards these areas, there’d likely be more jobs created.
More advantages for small businesses: Statistically, small businesses are the top job creators in America, according to The Atlantic. Granting more economic incentives to small businesses helps everyone.
Contact Chris Goudreau at firstname.lastname@example.org.