Minneapolis, MN – Over two-hundred leaders from TakeAction Minnesota carrying signs saying “I’m Ready To Work!” converged on Target’s corporate headquarters over the lunch hour, calling on Target to change hiring practices that serve to permanently exclude those with criminal records from employment. The action was organized to pressure Target into scheduling a meeting, to discuss specific hiring practices that need to change in order to give those re-entering society, disproportionately persons of color, a chance to build their lives anew and support their families.
Two of the speakers included women who have had direct experience with trying to get jobs at Target but who have been denied them due to having a record. Jill Barnes of Golden Valley, who was also TakeAction Minnesota’s lead negotiator, spoke of wanting to get her life back on track after serving three years in prison for possession of methamphetamine. “Despite serving my time, turning my life around and becoming a licensed social worker, I still face the exact same barriers I faced after I was released from prison. I can’t find work because no one will hire me or give me a chance to prove that I have changed for the better.”
Kissy Mason, who lives in Minnetonka with her three children, had a misdemeanor conviction for verbally assaulting a family member. She worked to have her record expunged, sealing her record from the public. After being laid off from a job last October, Mason applied for a cashier position at Target, one which she was given an interview for and offered a job at eight-dollars-per-hour. However, two days later, Target told her the job was no longer hers due to her criminal record. In sharing her story, Mason told the crowd “I want to contribute to my family, to pay taxes. I’m ready to work. Target says that a record will not automatically disqualify you from receiving a job offer. That’s not my experience.”
The rally was held a day after TakeAction Minnesota released a new report called “Ready to Work: How Minnesota’s Corporate Employers Can Lead in Closing the Jobs Gap.” Despite Minnesota being an economic leader in many categories, it has the dubious distinction of having the worst-in-the-nation racial employment gap – especially for Minnesota’s African-American population which is four times more likely to remain unemployed than their white counterparts.
Pastor Brian Herron of Zion Baptist Church in Minneapolis, and a former Minneapolis City Council member, highlighted Target’s position as a decades-old business leader in the state. “We are asking you, Target, to take the lead. Take the lead on fair hiring and set the example for the rest of the employers of our state so that those with a record, who have served their time, are not permanently excluded from getting a job and supporting their families.” Herron told the crowd that “one of the things that has to change is the perception of those who have criminal records. These are people — someone’s son or daughter. Their mom or dad. There are no throwaway people.”
Of the more than two-hundred that joined the demonstration, nearly seventy-five percent were individuals with criminal records or family members of someone with a record. A number of these have applied to work at Target but have never been allowed an interview or have been denied employment because of their record.
TakeAction Minnesota wants four specific hiring practices changed by Target and other corporate employers in Minnesota, to help close the racial employment gap and expand the pool of qualified applicants:
1) Remove any questions about criminal records from INITIAL employment applications;
2) Do not consider NON-CONVICTION records or cases that have been EXPUNGED or PARDONED in the hiring process;
3) Consider criminal records only when they directly relate to the position sought by an applicant;
4) Allow applicants to show EVIDENCE OF REHABILITATION, if a person does have a criminal record related to the position being sought.
After twenty minutes, Human Resources officials from Target came down to the lobby to meet briefly with TakeAction Minnesota about its request to change their hiring guidelines. A formal meeting with Target’s Human Resources Development team is now set for May 29.
# # #
Media Contact: Greta Bergstrom, firstname.lastname@example.org
TakeAction Minnesota is a statewide organization representing over a quarter of a million individuals raising the voices of Minnesotans to achieve economic, social and racial justice in their own communities.