One day last year, when schools were closed due to the pandemic, President and CEO Marcus Sheanshang brought his kids to work with him at JBM Packaging of Lebanon, Ohio. And he knew exactly who should train the kids on the company’s envelope and packaging machines: Amanda Hall, one of the company’s star employees.
But Hall isn’t just a star; she’s a star with an unusual background. As Sheanshang put it, “We were having dinner that night, and I said to the kids, ‘Do you know something very interesting about Ms. Amanda? … Ms. Amanda was in prison a few years ago.’ They said, ‘No, there’s no way.’ They wouldn’t believe me.”
A factory for fair chances: In fact, Hall’s story is almost the rule, not the exception, for JBM. One-quarter of JBM’s employees are what the company calls “fair chance” hires, or those who have been involved with the criminal-justice system. Sheanshang expects that proportion to grow to half the workforce in the coming years.
How it began: Sheanshang instituted the hiring program, in which the company actively recruits future employees from 30 correctional institutions and halfway houses, about five years ago when looking for creative strategies to address labor shortages.
- “We don’t have people applying for jobs,” Sheanshang said, referring to the manufacturing industry’s long-time struggle to find enough skilled employees. “Fair chance hiring really plugged that hole for us and allowed us to grow and get the right team members on our team who share our values. When they get out of prison, they have a spot here at JBM.”
How it works: While JBM won’t bring on anyone who has been charged with sex crimes, crimes against women or crimes against children, the company is committed to hiring and supporting all others who want and are eligible to work.
- JBM has an on-staff change coach who works with all JBM employees to help them find housing, purchase a car and more. Her success with the employees has been so profound that JBM is looking to hire another such coach, Sheanshang told us.
Grand opening: In July, the packaging business opened a second plant, this one in downtown Cincinnati. While the company’s success made this expansion possible, JBM was also aiming to move closer to its fair chance employees and potential new hires.
- “We noticed there’s a fair number of barriers in the Lebanon area [regarding] housing and transportation,” Sheanshang said. The downtown Cincinnati location offers more transportation resources “for folks looking to get back on their feet.”
Triumph over tragedy: Sheanshang is proud of the successes that fair chance employees have achieved. He shared the story of Brian, a fair chance hire who started out as a production worker and now is on the path to becoming a quality control supervisor. Another fair chance employee, Justin, also began at JBM at entry level. He is now on track to become a trainer of other employees.
- “This is not stuff that’s given to them,” Sheanshang said. “This is stuff that they’re earning.”
The last word: “I would say to any CEO or other business owner, really take a hard look at fair chance hiring,” Sheanshang said. “When it gets down to brass tacks, this is a great strategy. If you have the systems in place to help fair chance hires, this will work.”
The Manufacturing Institute recently launched its second chance hiring initiative, which helps companies recruit and retain individuals with criminal records, just as JBM does. Learn more about this initiative here.
Manufacturing businesses have long been proponents of equality in the workplace. As legislation to codify protections for LGBT individuals passes through the House of Representatives, the National Association of Manufacturers joined the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable, and other members of the business community in advocating its passage, forging coalitions and providing congressional testimony.
Introduced with bipartisan support in the U.S. House and Senate in March, the Equality Act includes federal protections for individuals based on sexual orientation and gender identity under the existing framework of the Civil Rights Act, which already provides protection against discrimination on the basis of religion, national origin, race, color or sex. The goal of the legislation is to ensure that no person can face legal discrimination based on their gender or sexual orientation, setting a clear federal standard to enable individuals to succeed based on their abilities and qualifications to perform a job.
“Employers understand the importance of creating an environment in which the very best people can succeed based on merit,” Patrick Hedren, NAM vice president, labor, legal and regulatory policy, said. “At the same time, manufacturers know that discrimination in any form is antithetical to the values that we work to uphold every day: equality of opportunity, individual liberty, free enterprise and competitiveness.”
In March, more than 40 other industry associations rallied to support the Equality Act, providing an important boost for the groundbreaking legislation. In the weeks since, manufacturing representatives have testified before the House Education and Labor Committee and signed a coalition letter to the House Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services calling for the Act’s passage. As Congress considers the way forward, manufacturers have made clear that they intend to advocate forcefully on behalf of the legislation and uphold their commitment to workers of every gender identity and sexual orientation.
“The Equality Act creates a clear federal standard that matches the sentiments manufacturers already share: gender identity and sexual orientation have no impact on an employee’s abilities and discrimination is not welcome on the manufacturing floor,” Hedren said. “We look forward to working with Congress as this important legislation moves ahead.”
Washington, D.C. – National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) President and CEO Jay Timmons released the following statement after the Department of Labor (DOL) rescinded the 2016 Persuader Rule:
Manufacturers have fought for this victory for many years in the courts, in Congress and with two administrations, using the full weight of our policy, government relations and legal teams, said Timmons. The NAM’s Manufacturers’ Center for Legal Action was able to halt the rule in court in 2016.And in 2017, the Trump administration, as part of its broader regulatory relief agenda, thankfully began the process of unwinding the rule. This overreaching rule threatened to impose serious burdens on manufacturers and upend employee–employer communications. Now manufacturers are relieved that this threat to workplace communications is finally and officially off the books. Commonsense steps like this to rein in onerous regulations are a major reason why manufacturers are reporting record-high business optimism.
The Manufacturers’ Center for Legal Action (MCLA) is the leading voice of manufacturers in the courts and engages in a range of activities, including direct party litigation and operating a robust amicus program, as well as educating manufacturers about emerging legal trends. The MCLA is led by NAM Senior Vice President and General Counsel Linda Kelly and NAM Vice President of Litigation and Deputy General Counsel Peter Tolsdorf. More information on the MCLA can be found here.
The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) is the largest manufacturing association in the United States, representing small and large manufacturers in every industrial sector and in all 50 states. Manufacturing employs more than 12 million men and women, contributes $2.25 trillion to the U.S. economy annually, has the largest economic impact of any major sector and accounts for more than three-quarters of private-sector research and development. The NAM is the powerful voice of the manufacturing community and the leading advocate for a policy agenda that helps manufacturers compete in the global economy and create jobs across the United States. For more information about the Manufacturers or to follow us on Shopfloor, Twitter and Facebook, please visit www.nam.org.