Karen Tumelty Gives Us The Full View of Open Hiring and Removing Barriers to Employment

Listen Now

In This Episode

Giving someone an opportunity to have a job and a career doesn’t have to depend on what they do or don’t have listed on their resume. Karen Tumelty joins us to talk about the open hiring practices at Greyston and how they are working to remove barriers to employment.

Episode Highlights

2:15 Greg introduces Karen.
3:11 Greg introduces Karen’s role and company she works for Greyston.
3:30 Karen introduces Greyston as a bakery and the centre for open hiring and their involvement in people being thriving employees.
4:40 Dave asks how Greg met Karen
4:45 Karen tells the story of how they met at a Bcorp event in downtown New York.
6:07 Greg asks Karen to talk about Greyston’s work as a social enterprise.
6:14 Karen explains the background of Greyston Bakery and the practice of open hiring.
7:26 Karen says how they are making 35,000 lbs of brownies every day this time of year and that they hire employees that only need to fill out their applications to be hired as part of the open hiring program.
8:28 Greg asks what some of the fears around people not working might be in this structure of hiring.
8:36 Karen says they don’t promise a career they promise an opportunity for a career but people need to do the job or they will get fired.
9:28 That dooesn’t always mean that people will be left out completely, Greyston will offer support through job training, or more chances at a job again and again until they succeed.
10:05 Greg asks what some of the successes stories are.
10:15 Karen talks about some of her previous work and how working at Greyston allows her to talk to the employees and how their experiences expand her life.
11:20 We all live in bubbles there’s no way we can have all the experiences in the world, but we can expand our bubbles by meeting others.
11:55 Greyston is trying to illuminate the landscape around someone’s life so that they have a path to move forward on.
12:13 Karen tells the story of a couple working at the bakery who were homeless. They have someone whose job at the bakery is to help people find their paths and the resources to help them. This person was able to get them into an apartment. A year later Karen gets a call to help them get a kitten for their home, which touched her because it made her realize they now they have the confident to bring another living thing into their home which they would not have had before.
14:30 Dave speaks about how he has the privellege of not understanding what homelessness feels like and appreciates Karen bringing it up. Dave says how open hiring has been around for 37 years.
15:25 Dave asks about that their customers must feel about their brownies.
15:38 Karen says yes, that some people buy because of that, but they also just sell to other people who love their brownies and part of the reason that their products are so good is because they must give those people they are giving opportunities to an excellent product to produce in order to support their believe that anyone can be an excellent employee.
17:40 Dave asks about developing culturally appropriate training.
18:19 Karen explains that she used to do the HR for the bakery and what they would take their employees through and one thing they focused on was soft skills of having a job and things like workforce conflict.
19:53 They focus on outcomes and what the outcomes would be in certain situations.
21:52 Dave asks what internal barriers people speak about of why they haven’t been able to get a job.
21:58 Karen says that the major theme is that everyone is trying to get a job and everyone says no.
22:15 Karen says they don’t asks many questions but the majority of their employees will be very open and honest with them.
22:50 Karen talks about how those with criminal backgrounds are often affected by this harshly and it’s complicated by when you add the stats of gender, race, etc. within the United States that certain people will end up in jail more frequently than others when faced with similar situations.
23:52 A criminal background check does not take any of this into account.
24:14 Greg says how these situations would keep those structures of oppression in effect since it makes it hard to break those and how he’s read how easy slavery could occur again.
24:55 Karen uses the example of for profit prisons as a way to show that structure easily exists.
26:05 Karen explains how these people coming out of prison are from drug charges and not violent offences.
26:37 Karen says many people will ask her if she’s afraid of employing people with criminal backgrounds and she says No, not at all. They do not have those issues and have not had those issues before.
27:27 Dave speaks to his work helping youth transitioning back to their home environment from the youth criminal justice system and how he found it was often better to not ask questions about their offences so he could treat them fairly. Our past doesn’t equal our future.
28:40 Dave asks what criminal background checks actually leave you in your pool of hiring people.
29:17 Dave asks if Karen has people calling to ask about how to open hiring.
29:20 Karen explains that they get calls everyday which is why they opened the centre to help encourage and educate people on open hiring.
30:08 Karen says that their approach costs a lot less.
31:02 Greg highlights how it takes a lot of energy to not be nice.

Karen Tumelty

Karen Tumelty

Community and Cultural Development Manager

Karen Tumelty’s career has ranged from Human Resources, to Fundraising and Communications to Community Development.  She is currently the Community and Development Manager for Greyston.   

After working with Greyston from 1999 to 2004, she returned in 2010 to assume the Human Resources functions at Greyston Bakery.  In this role, she refined and evolved Open Hiring, made significant changes in the orientation of new employees, developed culturally appropriate trainings, and advocated for improved policies affecting employee rights.   

She is currently Greyston’s Community and Development Manager working to extend Greyston deeper into both our local and national communities and advocating for alternative hiring practices and employee and legislative polices that reflect the realities of communities.  Her career includes time at Tommy Boy Music, Riverkeeper, Human Rights First and Common Ground.   

Karen was raised in Yonkers and is committed to public service in her community.  Among many other organizations that she has worked with, she has served as Vice Chair of the Yonkers Commission for Human Rights, was the Founding Chair of the Yonkers Alliance for Latino and Immigrant Services,  and was the first woman to join the Formation Committee for the Yonkers St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee of which she ultimately became Chair. Karen lives in Yonkers with her partner Brian.

About Greyston
Greyston should appear next to the definition of “social enterprise” in the dictionary. Since 1982, the organization has hired individuals who may never have been given a chance to work. Over 5,000 people every year are assisted by Greyston — through early learning programs, housing assistance, community programs, and numerous green sites which supplies over 14 tons of fresh produce annually. Its workforce development programs offer skills training, career counseling, and job placement — all of which create ripple effects throughout the Yonkers, New York community.

This workforce development model, which Greyston calls Open Hiring™, makes the radical proposition that every person, if they desire it, deserves the fundamental dignity of work in the community in which they live, regardless of their circumstances: anyone who wants a job, gets a job. After 35 years, the model is well proven.

Check out The Boiling Point Podcast!

A podcast for the ever evolving entrepreneur.


To subscribe using another podcatcher, copy this URL: