Workers with Records: Reclaiming Rights, Dreams, and Dignity

Workers with records must have access to good jobs that will enable them to sustain themselves, their families and communities, and their dreams.

A Black woman holds a sign that reads "Dignity and Respect" at an action.

We Value People with Records

We envision a society that ensures workers with records have good jobs that sustain them, their families and communities, and their hopes. We collaborate with workers and partners to transform policies and narratives toward this vision.

Historically, racist policies have led to mass criminalization and employment discrimination, resulting in significant economic challenges for people with records. This has particularly affected communities of color, and especially Black communities and Black women.

Workers with records are organizing for their rights when it comes to incarceration, supervision, job search, employment, and more.

The Criminal Legal System Shapes Employment

The criminal legal system affects economic stability for all of us; it enables unscrupulous employers to exploit the work of incarcerated people and people with records, lowering the floor for all workers. Employers who seek to exploit workers with records erode wages and drive up poverty among workers with records and their families—exacerbating structural racism especially for Black people.

We’re inspired by impacted people who have fought back and achieved gains that raise the floor for all workers. When labor and justice reform movements work together, we can spur systems change.

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Key Stats on Workers with Records

1 in 3

Americans has an arrest or conviction record.


of formerly incarcerated Black women are unemployed, compared to 6.4% of Black women in the general population.


states and over 150 cities have passed fair chance hiring policies because of organizing by workers with records and their allies.

A woman mechanic looks directly into the camera.

Black Women Fighting for Economic Justice

We center Black women because U.S. labor policies have segregated Black women into critical roles like caregiving, farmwork, healthcare, and teaching, while underpaying them and undervaluing their well-being and the well-being of their families and communities.

When Black women affected by occupational segregation are also impacted by the criminal legal system directly, or through loved ones, they bear the burden of fines and fees, an informal reentry system, and conviction barriers. We collaborate with Black women fighting for economic justice, centering their joy and dreams.

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Advancing Economic Justice for Workers with Records

We are committed to advancing economic justice alongside workers with records by:

  • Addressing occupational segregation, centering the insights of Black women workers.
  • Advancing fair chance hiring and reforming occupational licensing laws to ensure equitable employment and expand career access.
  • Advocating for greater inclusion of workers with records in labor unions.
  • Supporting the elimination of fines and fees that burden impacted communities.
  • Working in deep partnership with organizations that build power among workers with records—including worker centers and worker cooperatives.

10 Key Policy Proposals

This policy agenda for reentry and workers’ rights advocates briefly outlines how the criminal punishment system degrades working conditions for all workers.

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Go Deeper on Solutions

Learn more about fair chance hiring, occupational licensing, and other bold solutions.