Labor-Community Coalition Celebrates Major Civil Rights Victory for New Yorkers

Mayor de Blasio Signs Intro. 261, Strongest Employment Credit Check Ban in the Nation

May 6, 2015  Today, members of the NYC Coalition to Stop Credit Checks in Employment joined Mayor Bill de Blasio and lead bill sponsor Councilmember Brad Lander for the signing of Intro. 261, the “Stop Credit Discrimination in Employment Act.” The signing of this legislation is the result of a multi-year campaign waged by the coalition of over 75 community, labor, civil rights and student organizations to ban the use of credit checks in employment.  Pointing to the discriminatory impact it creates for communities ravaged by predatory lending and skyrocketing student debt, the coalition thanked the Mayor for his support in bringing down this unjustified, discriminatory barrier to jobs.

“After recovering from a serious injury that saddled me with over $50,000 of medical debt, I began applying for jobs and quickly realized that something was different. I suddenly wasn’t good enough to hire. It wasn’t that employers weren’t interested in me. In fact, during interviews, I received lots of encouragement and praise from employers, who said I was management material or a great fit for the job. It was only after they checked my credit that I suddenly wasn’t good enough,” said Alfred Carpenter, Member of the NYC Coalition to Stop Credit Checks in Employment. “This law makes New York a better place to live and work. I applaud the Mayor and the City Council for taking action to remove this unfair, discriminatory barrier to employment.”

“Our campaign to ban the use of credit checks in employment has been guided by the simple understanding that a person’s credit history has no bearing on their ability to do a job or their propensity to commit fraud,” said Armando Chapelliquen, Campaign Organizer with the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG). “NYPIRG has seen too many students, whether from crippling student loan debt or other life situations, stuck in a credit ‘catch-22’. By signing this legislation, the City is removing an unjust barrier for hardworking students looking to start off their careers.”

The Stop Credit Discrimination in Employment Act recently passed the City Council with wide support – 47 voting in favor and 3 in opposition.  While similar legislation has been passed in ten states across the country, New York City’s law is the strongest in the nation, lacking the broad exemptions that undermine the goal of the legislation.

“After leaving college due to the overwhelming cost and massive student loans, I started working in retail to help support my family and applied for a full-time managerial position at a large department store, a position for which I was more than qualified. After being told that there would be a credit check during the interview, and eventually hearing that the store went with another applicant, the store suggested I apply for a part-time non-managerial position. This felt like a slap in the face; I realized the fact that I had a lot of student debt showing up on my credit report might have been used against me,” said Onieka O’Kieffe, member of the Retail Action Project, an initiative of the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union. “With my work history and demonstrated responsibility on the job, I was more than qualified for the original position. My credit report does not represent who I am, and what I’m capable of as a worker. I want to thank Mayor de Blasio for signing this bill that will assist New Yorkers who are struggling with debt.”

 “Credit checks for employment unfairly lock New Yorkers out of jobs,” said Council Member Brad Lander. “So I’m proud that with today’s signing New York now has the strongest law of its kind to end discriminatory employment credit checks. After this bill passed the Council, I heard from a recently laid-off single mom, worried about finding a new job because of her daughter’s college loans on her credit report. She wrote that this law gives her ‘a new lease on life.’ Thank you to Mayor de Blasio for continuing to stand up for the most vulnerable New Yorkers, and to my Council colleagues, especially Speaker Mark-Viverito, my Co-Sponsor Council Member Rose, and Chair Mealy for their support on this strong, smart piece of legislation. Well-earned credit (and the kind you’d be happy to have anyone know about) goes to the 70-member organizations of the NYC Coalition to Stop Credit Checks in Employment, including brave individuals who came forward to tell their stories, and who worked so hard to make this day happen.”

“This vital civil rights law will remove a major barrier to employment opportunity for lower-income New Yorkers,” said Sarah Ludwig, Co-Director of New Economy Project, which coordinates the NYC Coalition to Stop Credit Checks in Employment. “Credit reports reflect already-existing inequities in our credit system and in our economy. Using them in the employment context unjustly blocks qualified New Yorkers, particularly people of color, from much-needed jobs.”

“We commend the NYC Council and Mayor for being progressive leaders and passing the strongest ban on employment credit checks in the country. Tens of thousands of New Yorkers struggling with debt will no longer be barred from taking jobs and paying it off.” Bill Lipton, State Director of the Working Families

“The New York City Employment & Training Coalition (NYCETC) applauds Mayor de Blasio’s bill signing today, prohibiting employers from denying jobs to applicants with poor credit histories,” said Mary Ellen Clark, Executive Director for the New York City Employment & Training Coalition.  “As advocates for over 150 of New York City’s job training and employment service providers, we know that this will enable thousands of New Yorkers who seek employment to finally secure jobs for which they are qualified.”  

“The New York City Council has put forward the strongest employment credit checks bill in the country, and we’re thrilled to see Mayor de Blasio sign it into law,” said Emmanuel Caicedo, Senior Campaign Strategist with Demos. “This robust bill not only eliminates an arbitrary obstacle to employment in some of the largest employment sectors of our city, but also sends a strong message: there is no correlation between weak credit and job performance. We look forward to working with the Council and the mayor to make the credits checks universally obsolete in the near future.”

“This bill is a huge breakthrough for ordinary New Yorkers and working people who deserve to be treated fairly and without discrimination when they apply for a job,” stated Robert Martin, Associate Director of DC 37 Municipal Employees Legal Services. “Hopefully it will serve as an example as other cities deal with issues of poverty, job opportunity and community building.”

“In our work, we assist many hard-working New Yorkers who, for one reason or another, have fallen into debt,” said Evan Denerstein, Staff Attorney at MFY Legal Services. “It is a relief that these clients will no longer be deprived of a fair opportunity to find work and support their families.”  

“As worker advocates, our goal is to ensure that workers have access to well-paying jobs, providing a voice at work, and the benefits and protections necessary to provide for themselves and their families,” said Vincent Alvarez, President of the New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO. “The signing of this bill is a testament to the gains that can be made when the labor movement and our coalition partners join together to remove unnecessary, antiquated barriers to employment. We will continue to stand with our worker allies to improve and increase employment opportunities for working people.”

“Employment credit checks have for far too long unnecessarily prevented so many of our clients from finding work, trapping them in a cycle of debt and poverty. Legal Services NYC applauds the Mayor and City Council for tackling this important issue.” Sarah Alba, Staff Attorney

“For too many New Yorkers there has been a vicious cycle. Their credit rating has been damaged when they have been unable to pay off the debts they have accumulated living in one of the most expensive cities in the world or receiving an education or covering an unexpected medical expense,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the RWDSU. “They need jobs to pay off their debts, but their credit rating has prevented them from getting employed and they only fall further into debt. You need a job to pay off your debt, but then you can’t get a job because of the debt you already have. This law will help to break the cycle. It will give working people the opportunity to earn their way out of debt.”

“Many of our clients have been hindered for years by the practice of employers checking credit prior to hiring. This law allows thousands of New Yorkers to breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that their past credit and hardships will no longer keep them from obtaining employment and providing for their families,” stated Daphne Schlick, Associate Director of Consumer Protection with New York Legal Assistance Group.  “We applaud the City Council and the Mayor’s Office for joining together to ensure secure futures for New York families.”

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