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Expungement clinics give UDW members and their families a chance for a fresh start

We all make mistakes, and we all deserve the chance to atone for them. But low-level crimes on our records can keep us from turning our lives around, making a fresh start and contributing to society.

That’s why UDW, with our friends at UFCW, is helping caregivers and their family members by holding expungement clinics to help certain non-violent offenders clear their records. “Expunge” means to set aside and dismiss something and, after attending these clinics, many folks have a chance to look forward to a clear future.

It’s important to note that these are not violent or serious crimes, but the kind of low-level offenses that are often the result of poverty or addiction and that California has decided are eligible for expungement.

These are some of the offenses that may qualify to be changed from felonies to misdemeanors:

  • simple drug possession
  • petty theft under $950
  • shoplifting under $950
  • forgery under $950
  • writing a bad check under $950
  • Receipt of stolen property under $950.

With Proposition 47, passed by voters in 2014, California downgraded these former felonies to misdemeanors with the goal of reducing incarceration costs for the state. And, for people who have struggled with a record that just doesn’t describe who they are anymore, getting expungement help is life-changing.

“I got a felony conviction when I was 18 years old. I am now 31 and unable to get a job making more than $12.50 an hour,” said UDW member R.B. “I’m hopeful that through this process of expunging my record that doors will start to open for me. I’m really thankful for this opportunity and this resource made available by my union.”

P.R., another UDW member, also found hope at an expungement clinic. “I have a misdemeanor from 2016 and it has prevented me from being able to be on the IHSS registry to get matched with a client,” she said. “After attending this expungement clinic, I learned that I just need to turn in my paperwork so that my record can be expunged. I look forward to new job opportunities opening up for me!”

UDW’s expungement clinics have also helped our family members. “Having a record has made it difficult to obtain employment because of prior convictions,” said E.E., relative of a UDW member. “It feels good knowing that UDW is doing this and I’m now optimistic about my future. This is a great clinic.”

For UDW Executive Director Doug Moore, helping UDW members and their families get on a more stable path to the future through expungement clinics is part of the union’s duty to serve members.

“UDW is committed to helping its members secure a better life,” he said. “That means clearing a path through the kind of barriers that often keep poor people and people of color from putting their best foot forward. We are proud to be part of helping our members and their families let go of the pain of the past and step boldly into the promise of the future.”