Under the philosophy of “conscious capitalism,” Rochester’s own CleanCraft has joined the ranks of the Center for Open Hiring.
The Center for Open Hiring, or CFOH, is a philosophical mission put forth by Yonkers bakery Greyston which emphasizes hiring practices that include those who may be excluded by the traditional capitalist system. In this system, recovering drug addicts and ex-cons are granted opportunities which may otherwise pass them by. In place for 35 years, Greyston, which produces brownies for Ben & Jerry’s and Whole Foods Market Inc., refers to its practice as “not hiring people to bake brownies, but baking brownies to hire people.” Both Ben & Jerry’s and Whole Foods are partners with the Center, with the Rochester-based cleaning company joining their ranks.
For CleanCraft President Ty Hookway, it’s a partnership that simply made sense.
“There’s a lot of people that want to get back into the workforce, and there’s a lot of reasons that they don’t,” Hookway said. “The real reason I love it (CFOH) is these are real businessmen—it’s a capitalistic venture. There’s nothing wrong with handouts, but sometimes they don’t appreciate them and sort of take advantage of it. This is a hand up.”
The move to open hiring is one that isn’t new for Hookway and CleanCraft, as they have practiced a policy of “taking a chance” on employees with troubled pasts for 25 years, stemming from his experience with one ankle-bracelet-bound employee.
“I’m going through this building with an employee at around one in the morning down in Bushnell’s Basin, and I notice he’s got this thing on his ankle,” Hookway said. “So I’m like ‘what the hell is that?’ And I had no idea what an ankle bracelet was. He says ‘that’s an ankle bracelet,’ and I ask him what’s that and he says ‘I robbed a bank.'”
The employee, who had passed through Hookway’s screening process without his past coming up, explained that, in the past, he had been hooked on drugs and was ultimately arrested for bank robbery. Rather than kick him to the curb, Hookway opted to give him a chance.
“He gave me the whole sob story, and said ‘I need this job,'” Hookway said. “Now, he’s making 60Gs and my best manager. He’s the nicest guy in the world and my best man on the job.”
This experience was what Hookway said planted the seed, inspiring him to give opportunities to employees who otherwise would have been forgotten by the system. While Hookway says he still performs the usual screening processes, including drug tests and background checks, it’s a case-by-case basis, and if he sees promise in an employee, he’s willing and ready to let them work.
“It’s not like it’s 400 guys—most of our people are background-checked and everything, but we try to give two, three, four, five guys a chance,” Hookway said. “I don’t do it for anything, I just do it because I want to give people a chance.”
Hookway traveled to Tarrytown in Westchester County on Thursday to accept his official designation as an affiliate partner with the CFOH, at a gala honoring Ben & Jerry’s founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield. CleanCraft will be joining the ranks of Unilever, Oakland’s Beneficial State Bank and the U.N. Global Compact consortium, including 600 business schools, following principles for Responsible Management Education.
“We don’t spend money to screen people out. Instead, we invest to bring people who are often systematically excluded in to the mainstream economy,” said Greyston CEO Mike Brady. “What CleanCraft is doing holds such promise. I grew up in Rochester. We are thrilled to have a Rochester hub for the Center for Open Hiring at Greyston. It’s going to be transformative—for people, for business, and for the community.”