Thursday, May 19, 2011

"I am an Ex-Offender, a Woman of Color, Living in Poverty."

On April 2, 9to5 co-sponsored a “speak out” with Jobs with Justice. Marilynn Winn, a member of 9to5, spoke at the event. Here are her words:

“My name is Marilynn Winn. I was born in 1951 at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta GA. I was born into poverty; my mother cleaned other people’s homes for minimum wage to support us. She still cleans homes for the same wages today.

"Society calls me an ex-offender. For those of us who are seeking employment to better ourselves we are not ex-offenders, we are reformed citizens of the state of Georgia. It was very hard for me to obtain any kind of employment, if I told the truth about my background. I was recommended to a temp staffing service that hires ex-offenders. To my surprise, when I arrived I had to not only be an ex-offender but also homeless in order to receive assistance. Since I didn’t meet their requirements, they didn’t want to help. I was determined to get employment. I sincerely wanted a change from a life of crime. I stressed my problem to the company over and over and finally they said they would give me a chance. Through this temp staffing service, I worked for a wealthy company that did not hire ex-offenders. I have been employed there for 3 years. I am considered a regular. I work everyday and am often called in to replace other employees who are absent. The company manager calls me, not the temp agency. I report to work like the company’s employees do. The difference is, I cannot make overtime, I have no benefits. Company employees receive both overtime and benefits and while I make $7.25/hr they earn $10-$12/hr.

"I am an ex-offender, a woman of color, living in poverty. Being any one of these titles I mentioned, I automatically face all types of discrimination; jobs, housing, etc. I have to accept what I can get. I survive by working any and every job I am asked to.

"My message to you, to the country, to the world, is society needs to stop putting us down and help us up. Give us a chance. Someone gave them a chance. For ex-offenders, we did the crime, we have served our time. We shouldn’t be given a chance to go back into society with jobs, education, housing and benefits. If you don’t give ex-offenders a chance you won't allow them to stop committing crimes and the cycle will continue."

Photo: Ms. Marilynn Winn with Georgia State Senator Nan Orrock

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