Contingent Jobs and Community Organizing: A Georgia Case Study on the Social Determinants of Health Open Access

Sikes, Roger (2013)

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Contingent Jobs and Community Organizing: A Georgia Case Study on the Social Determinants of Health

By Roger Sikes

Background: Employment structures in the US are shifting towards contingent jobs characterized as part-time, temporary, contract and seasonal. These shifts in employment structures are situated within the social determinants of health framework and may have implications towards health outcomes. A case study in Georgia examines the vulnerabilities of contingent work, in this case, exposed by a policy change at the state level and methods used to overcome them. In early 2012, Georgia school workers were denied their unemployment benefits during periods of layoffs. A labor/community coalition called Atlanta Jobs with Justice developed the "Justice for School Workers" campaign in order to win back over $8,000,000 in denied benefits to 4,000 Georgia school workers. The back pay was an important victory, but the underlying contingent employment structures remain.

Objectives: To understand how shifts in US employment structures fit into the social determinants of health framework, explore public policy responses to contingent employment in the state of Georgia and to understand how Georgia school workers were able to win back their unemployment benefits.

Methods: A case study approach used qualitative data, documentation, direct observation and participation to develop a descriptive analysis of the "Justice for School Workers" campaign.

Results: A combination of drastic cuts to basic levels of income, existing relationships, community organizing, and smart targeting helped to win back unemployment benefits for Georgia school workers.

Discussion: This case study lies at the intersection of massive shifts in US employment structures, changes in public policy and potential linkages to health and social well-being. The case in Georgia offers in-depth insight into the structural precariousness of contingent work. A policy decision by a statewide official exposed this vulnerability as well as the critical role of the public safety net for this contingent work force. If the school workers were employed year round on a twelve-month pay scale similar to public school teachers, the reliance on the state's safety net would diminish.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

1 Chapter 1: Introduction

6 Definition of Terms

7 Chapter 2: Literature Review

21 Chapter 3: Methodology

27 Chapter 4: Results

28 Campaign Timeline

56 Chapter 5: Discussion & Conclusion

66 Implications & Recommendations

69 References

73 Appendix 1 Institutional Review Board (IRB) Determination

74 Appendix 2: First letter from US DoL to the Georgia Labor Commissioner

77 Appendix 3: Letter from food service contractor to employee about possible denial

78 Appendix 4: Notice of public hearing about unemployment rule change

79 Appendix 5: Letter from Congressman John Lewis

80 Appendix 6: Georgia Labor Commissioner's letter in response to the US DoL

83 Appendix 7: Letter from US DoL to Georgia Governor Nathan Deal

85 Appendix 8: Final letter from US DoL to Georgia Labor Commissioner

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