The UFCW’s Civil Rights and Community Action Department is leading the effort to help our members and all hard-working people with prior nonviolent felonies get their records cleared and register to vote.
Over the past two years, the UFCW Civil Rights and Community Action Department has partnered with locals and allies to expunge the criminal records of some of our members and other hard-working women and men free of charge so that they can register to vote and have access to other services, such as affordable housing and education. To date, the UFCW has helped hundreds of people navigate their state’s voting laws and clear their records.
Our restorative rights effort began in San Francisco in 2016 when the UFCW International and UFCW Local 648, in partnership with Californians for Safety and Justice and the San Francisco Labor Council, hosted a Proposition 47 clinic to help people with prior nonviolent felonies to petition to get their records cleared. Proposition 47, which was passed by California voters in 2014, is a measure that reduces certain low-level crimes from potential felonies to misdemeanors. In addition to working with UFCW Local 648, the UFCW International has also worked with UFCW Locals 400, 770, 1189, 1208, 1428 and the RWDSU and other partners to hold clinics and fairs and register people to vote in Maryland, California, Minnesota, North Carolina and Georgia.
“Here at UFCW Local 770, we are committed to restorative justice,” said UFCW Local 770 Vice President and Director of Organizing Rigoberto Valdez, Jr. “Through the Ricardo F. Icaza Worker’s Center, we proudly offer free record expungement clinics. Thanks to Prop 47, we have been able to expunge the record of hundreds of people. We would not have been able to support as many people without forming strong partnerships with Los Angeles Public Defenders’ Office, the Drug Policy Alliance, and the Office of LA County Supervisor Hilda Solis.”
“A clean record truly improves the livelihood of people,” Valdez added. “We even have had people come back to us after having their record expunged to start the process of becoming U.S. citizens through our UCAN Clinic! We are so proud to be able to play this role in their lives.”
“By assisting others to restore voting rights, our union is making sure that hard-working people have the resources to fully participate in society,” said Sandra Williams, the international representative at the RWDSU / UFCW’s Southeast Region, who helped to organize the clinic in Georgia.
The UFCW International also supports legislation that helps restore voting power. In 2017, we supported California Governor Jerry Brown’s legislation that extended Proposition 47 for another five years. This year, our union is supporting a ballot amendment in Florida, which would restore voting rights to over 1.5 million former felons. Florida, along with Iowa and Kentucky, currently keeps anyone who has committed a felony from ever voting again.
“Formerly incarcerated people face a social stigma because of their past,” said UFCW International Vice President and Director of the Civil Rights and Community Action Department Robin Williams. “They are returning citizens and many are UFCW members. Helping our members achieve social and economic freedom is the work of our union.”
The UFCW International plans to host a clinic with UFCW Local 27, in partnership with the Southern Delaware Alliance for Social Justice, NAACP, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, APEX and Office of Defense Services, in Delaware on Oct. 27. If your local is interested in working with the UFCW International to help people clear their records and change their lives for the better, contact Robin Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org or Karina Lopez at email@example.com. Additional information about voting rights in your state is available here.