The Broward Democratic Party held an exciting and informative monthly meeting on May 17th. Thank you to everyone who attended. BDP hosted three excellent speakers focusing on important issues in our community, and how we can TAKE ACTION to make a difference. SEIU Political Director Marcus Dixon spoke about the importance of “Ban the Box”, George Cavros discussed the significant differences between the August and November solar energy amendments, and SEIU Broward Regional Organizer Candy Herrera spoke about the Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC) and upcoming immigration clinics and volunteer opportunities.
Ban the Box
SEIU’s Political Director, Marcus Dixon gave an informative presentation on Ban the Box. The initiative is designed to delay background checks for job applicants until after a conditional offer of employment has been extended. Studies have shown that a conviction record reduces the likelihood of a job callback or offer by nearly 50%, regardless of skills or qualifications.
There are approximately 70 million adults in the United States with arrest records or convictions, and half of African American men have been arrested before the age of 23. When applicants are forced to check the box, they are often never given an opportunity to address either the merit of the arrest, the circumstances surrounding the arrest, or steps that have been taken towards rehabilitation. In cases like these the innocence of the individual holds no power, and the record follows them throughout their life. Ultimately, an arrest or conviction creates a vicious cycle. Those with convictions are unable to obtain employment. Without a job, they are unable to become law-abiding, tax-paying citizens. Mayor Wayne Messam of Miramar was in attendance to show his support. He went on the record to back Ban the Box, and discussed the need to address the issue at the local level. “Current policies place barriers and prejudices against individuals without giving a fair chance to demonstrate their qualifications.” Mayor Messam is championing a similar initiative in Miramar at the city level.
President Obama has directed the Office of Personnel Management to take action by modifying hiring rules, and to delay inquiries into criminal history until later in the hiring process. In Broward County, Ban the Box is being proposed to codify fairness and opportunity. It does not eliminate background checks, nor does it force employers to hire employees with a criminal background. It simply eliminates the possibility of being immediately judged based off their criminal history. Research indicates that once employers reviewed the skills and qualifications of applicant, they would be more likely to hire, despite the criminal background. In the United States, 23 states have adopted Ban the Box, and over 100 cities and counties have implemented the policy.
CALL TO ACTION: The Broward Democratic Party is calling on members to support Ban the Box at the Broward County Commission Meeting on Tuesday, June 14, 2016 at the Broward County Government Center, 115 S. Andrews Avenue, Fort Lauderdale, FL. Call your commissioners in advance to show your support.
Solar Amendment Initiatives
George Cavros discussed the amendments regarding solar energy. Living in the Sunshine State, we have a great solar resource. Yet, of the 9 million energy customers in Florida, we have 8,500 rooftop solar systems. These numbers are due to burdensome taxes that increase the cost of solar power—but voters can change that. On August 30th, you can vote YES on Amendment 4. If passed, the proposed amendment will exempt solar systems from the tangible personal property tax for 20 years. The taxes are passed on to the customers in the form of increased solar power prices of up to 5 cents per kilowatt-hour. While there are other policies also important to strong solar power development, Amendment 4 tax exemption is the more immediate. Better solar economics leads to better solar development, which begins a cleaner and more sustainable future.
CALL TO ACTION: On August 30th, vote YES on Amendment 4.
Candy Herrera, the South Florida Community Organizer at SEIU, spoke about the Florida Immigrant Coalition. FLIC is an organization that has been around since 1998, consists of lawyers, farm workers, youth, advocates, union, and community organizations. With over 100 allies, it is becoming a social movement. They work to help immigrant families financially, and legally. They “envision a new Florida based on inclusion and equality, without racism and exclusion, where immigrants can live and love without fear.” Their services help immigrants get citizenship and register to vote. Citizenship takes three months to process, leaving enough time where these new citizens can have a voice come time for election.
CALL TO ACTION: The Florida Immigration Clinic is requesting volunteers for upcoming citizenship clinics on May 27, 28, and June 1,2,3,4, and 11. Email Ivan Parra – Ivan@floridaimmigrant.org for more information.
Thank you again to everyone who attended this months meeting. Please join us at our next monthly meeting on June 21st at 7:00 PM!