After a unanimous vote of the City Council, Portland joined a growing number of local governments that are "banning the box" and making sure that workers with past arrest and conviction histories have the opportunity to find work. The new code prevents employers from asking about prospective employees' conviction history during job interviews. The new rule goes into effect in the summer of 2016.
Tom Chamberlain, president of the Oregon AFL-CIO, previously spoke about the importance of the law:
I urge Portland City Council to put a strong law on the books, take a stand and follow the 47 local jurisdictions who have done similar work by delaying inquiry until a conditional job offer has been made.
Carmen Berkley, AFL-CIO's director of Civil, Human, and Women's Rights, said:
I commend the city of Portland for moving 'Ban the Box' legislation. Mass criminalization and incarceration are issues that decimate our communities of color all around the nation. Having a criminal conviction in this country is like having a life sentence. Abled bodied and highly qualified men and women cannot re-join society and are blocked from accessing a job that could help them sustain themselves and their families. One of the most important factors to successful reintegration to society is employment. There are more than 45,000 laws in the U.S. that restrict opportunities and benefits based upon a conviction. After you pay for your crime you should be able to restore your life and join the labor force. This is what is in line with American values
Nkenge Harmon Johnson, president and CEO of the Urban League of Portland, expanded upon the impact the law will have:
While Oregon’s statewide unemployment rate continues to decline, the economic recovery is leaving out African Americans. The recently released 2015 State of Black Oregon reported an unemployment rate of 21% for black Portlanders. When Oregon’s overall unemployment was 11% following the recession, we called it a crisis. black communities and other communities of color have faced almost double this rate for years.
Emmanuel Price, a Portland resident who has had trouble finding work in the past, said:
We need an ordinance that can actually connect people with a history of justice involvement to jobs. We know that criminal history affects employability. An effective ordinance will ensure that criminal history is not part of the job interview process until after a conditional offer has been made.
Another resident, Llondyn Elliott, who grew up in a household where her father faced barriers in finding a job because of a past conviction, expanded:
Not having access to employment changes how society, your community, and your family sees you. Most importantly how you see yourself, resulting in a lack of confidence, opportunity and hope. This despair affects every relationship in that person’s life, such as the relationship between parent and child, taking away from one of the most fundamental relationships in life, and far too often setting the stage for that child to repeat the path of the parent.