The statewide community organization TakeAction Minnesota wanted to pass a state law to “ban the box” on job applications that asks whether potential employees have a criminal history. Since the whole idea of prison supposedly incorporates our belief in redemption and a shot at a second chance, then discriminating against a disproportionately African American ex-convict population in employment opportunities is counterproductive in terms of criminal justice policy as well as economic development. And a group of TakeAction members with criminal records were passionate about making this change. But, says TakeAction’s executive director Dan McGrath,“the problem with trying to change state policy is that when you walk into the state capitol, the lines on the playing field are already drawn.” So TakeAction worked outside of the capitol to try and open up some political space for change. And Target was the perfect, well, target. In 2010, TakeAction started requesting meetings with Target leadership, to no avail. So eventually, TakeAction took things to the next level, bringing more than 200 people to take over the lobby of Target headquarters. Then they got a meeting, but according to McGrath, nothing came of it. In the winter of 2012, TakeAction organized 150 job applicants with criminal records to apply in local Target stores to work the holiday rush season. None was offered a job. But the action led to 10 Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaints — which finally got Target’s attention.
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