Mark Birhanu

  • Hosted by Raise the Floor Alliance
  • Sponsored by Anonymous
  • Service location Chicago, Illinois
  • Law school Yale Law School
  • Issue area Criminal Records Relief, Workers' Rights
  • Fellowship class year 2019
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

By opening legal clinics that specialize in record expungement and employment law services, Mark seeks to eliminate barriers to employment, combat worker exploitation, and bring more Black Chicagoans into the city’s worker centers.

Black Chicagoans possess criminal records at disproportionate rates due to the over-criminalization of, and under-investment in, their communities. Those with criminal histories often cannot obtain jobs at all, or are pushed into highly exploitative work. Addressing this problem requires both assisting Black Chicagoans with clearing their records and vindicating their employment law rights, and supporting grassroots social movements aimed at confronting underlying systemic issues.

Chicago is currently witnessing a mass exodus of Black residents. This project emerges from a concern for that troubling reality. Mark hopes to use the law to ensure that Black Chicagoans have access to well-paying, non-exploitative work so that they can remain in the city that they call home.

Fellowship Plans

Founded by a coalition of eight worker centers, Raise the Floor Alliance (RTF) is a dominant voice in Chicago’s workers’ rights movement. Joining RTF, Mark will support Black workers and jobseekers by opening record sealing and expungement clinics, helping clients vindicate their employment law rights, providing Black worker centers with policy and advocacy support, and conducting community outreach.

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