New Jersey Mayors Endorse the Opportunity to Compete Act

JERSEY CITY, NJ – December 4, 2013, 9:00 A.M.

This morning, New Jersey Mayors from across the state gathered at City Hall in Jersey City to express their enthusiastic support for the New Jersey Opportunity to Compete Act (S2586)(“Ban the Box”) in advance of the New Jersey Legislature’s anticipated action on the bill this month. Press coverage of the event can be found here.

Jersey City Mayor Steven M. Fulop, who hosted the event, declared the core message of the gathered mayors: “The Opportunity to Compete Act removes artificial and unfair obstacles to employment for the one in four adults who have criminal records and gives New Jersey business owners a wider choice of prospective employees.”

Maplewood Mayor Victor DeLuca emphasized how many people this issue affects, explaining:

“Today over 90 percent of employers ask job-seekers on the initial job application whether they have ever been arrested or convicted of a crime, and checking ‘yes’ usually means the application will be thrown in the garbage and the job-seeker will not be considered at all.This anti-competitive blanket policy hurts our kids and grandkids, who all too often get caught up in today’s zero tolerance policies, whether it be from a college fraternity prank or getting caught smoking something stronger than tobacco. At first I thought this issue didn’t affect Maplewood, but after speaking with folks I realized people in my community and in every community throughout New Jersey are affected. These are our children, grandchildren, sisters and brothers. They are not strangers. They live in urban, suburban and rural municipalities throughout the state.”

Edison Mayor Antonia Ricigliano added, “We all make mistakes, particularly youngsters. But an incident of youthful indiscretion shouldn’t follow you for life, causing every door to slam in your face.”

Why do Mayors feel particularly strong about the Opportunity to Compete Act? “As the Mayor of Jersey City, I am responsible for the public safety and economic well-being of my city’s residents,” said Mayor Fulop. “The Opportunity to Compete Act will make our streets safer and jobs more available to our citizens, which we know go hand in hand. We are working to develop more opportunities for our residents and this legislation creates a pathway for more people to return to the workforce and find lasting employment.”

South Orange Village President Alex Torpey added, “This is not just a local issue, but also a statewide issue. We need a uniform, statewide standard for businesses to follow.”

Senator Sandra B. Cunningham, the Senate sponsor of the legislation who represents Jersey City and Bayonne, explained, “The Opportunity to Compete Act is not about hand-outs or give-aways, but rather responsibility. The text of the legislation is summed in a phrase: competing, win or lose, on your own merits.”

Cornell William Brooks, Esq., President and Chief Executive Officer of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, added, “This bill would not require any employer to hire anyone with a criminal record, only to treat people fairly whether or not they have a criminal record. This is simply about a fair shot and a fighting chance. There is nothing more American than that. Work is the moral fabric of American society. To exclude people from work not only denies them the ability to feed their families but also the ability to feed their sense of self-respect. In addressing this critical issue, the Opportunity to Compete Act would be good for business and good for job-seekers.”

Roselle Mayor Jamel Holley summed it all up, concluding, “At the end of the day, I am responsible for keeping Roselle’s residents safe and law-abiding. Work does that. This bill means less people on the streets and more people engaged in the moral and economic activity of working. This is why we have seen 10 states and 54 counties and municipalities across the country enact ‘Ban the Box’ legislation. Because a working community is a safe community. Bottom line, end of story.”

The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice would like to call upon all our fellow advocates for social justice to contact our lawmakers and urge them to pass this economically vital piece of legislation:

Contact the Governor and Your State

Legislators in Support of S2586:

For more information about The Opportunity to Compete Act and “Ban the Box,” click here.