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#WeNeedToWork Aims to Break Down Barriers to Employment


#WeNeedToWork Aims to Break Down Barriers to Employment

In recognition of the barriers to employment for many people living in poverty, CLS and Redeemed PA, an organization founded by CLS Board member Bill Cobb, have launched the #WeNeedToWork Campaign.

Many Pennsylvanians are shut out of the labor market despite their best efforts.  Young people, people with criminal records, and people with disabilities remain severely underemployed, even as Pennsylvania as whole recovers from recession.

The #WeNeedToWork Campaign aims to lift people out of poverty and boost our economy by advocating for both Philadelphia and Pennsylvania to create subsidized programs, using existing funding sources, so that people who are looking for work can support their families.

Jobs programs create public jobs that benefit communities by improving infrastructure or public services.  They also create financial incentives for small businesses and other private employers to hire new employees. A recent report by the Georgetown University Law Center on Poverty and Inequality, Lessons Learned from 40 Years of Subsidized Employment Programs, found that jobs programs are an effective way to fight poverty, raising employment rates and incomes and improving the futures of children living in poverty.

“Jobs programs aren’t just liberal or conservative anti-poverty solutions,” said Sharon Dietrich, CLS Litigation Director.  “People on both side of the political aisle recognize that jobs programs save taxpayer money while fighting poverty.  It’s more cost-effective to create a job than to incarcerate someone or house someone experiencing homelessness.”

26% of Philadelphians live in poverty – the highest rate of any large city in the nation – while 33 counties in Pennsylvania have poverty rates of 13% or higher. A jobs program sets people up for long-term employment by helping them “get a foot in the door” of workplaces, revitalizing Pennsylvania’s economy while helping people move out of poverty.

“People need to be able to provide for themselves and their families,” said Redeemed Founder Bill Cobb. “Instead of letting criminal records prevent people from finding employment, we should give people a chance to prove they can be good workers.”

Said CLS staff attorney Jamie Gullen, “Young people need to have access to job opportunities so they can build productive futures and support themselves and their families. The youth unemployment rate in Philadelphia is far too high, despite young people searching for work at high rates.”

Jobs programs don’t just fight poverty by helping people gain valuable employment experience, they also save taxpayers money by reducing financial costs associated with long-term unemployment, such as incarceration and care for individuals experiencing homelessness. When people are given opportunities to work, they are likely to stay employed after their jobs program participation ends, which helps their entire families and boosts the economy in their communities.

Kristen Dama, a Supervising Attorney at CLS, added:  “Jobs programs don’t require lawmakers to spend new money.  Federal, state, and local funding already exists that can be used to cover the costs of jobs programs.”

The campaign will mobilize community members, including displaced workers and advocates, in support of jobs programs in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania as a whole.  Supporters of the campaign can make their voices heard by signing a petition at

Founded in 1966 by the Philadelphia Bar Association, Community Legal Services (CLS) has provided free civil legal assistance to more than one million low-income Philadelphians. As the City’s oldest and largest legal services program, CLS represented approximately 11,500 clients in the past year. CLS assists clients when they face the threat of losing their homes, incomes, health care, and even their families. CLS attorneys and other staff provide a full range of legal services, from individual representation to administrative advocacy to class action litigation, as well as community education and social work. CLS is nationally recognized as a model legal services program. For more information, contact 215-981-3700 or visit

REDEEMED educates, advocates for, and mobilizes people with arrest and convictions to engage in collective social, economic, and political activities.  Our core belief is that collective civic engagement builds social capital, broadens economic opportunities, promotes upward mobility and contributes to a range of positive outcomes that benefits individuals and the community.  Redeemed's mission is to eliminate systemic discrimination aimed at people living with arrest and convictions.