Session: Collaborating with Stakeholders to Study the Lives of Low-Wage Workers: Engaging and Sustaining Relationships with Community Partners (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

198 Collaborating with Stakeholders to Study the Lives of Low-Wage Workers: Engaging and Sustaining Relationships with Community Partners

Saturday, January 18, 2020: 8:00 AM-9:30 AM
Independence BR G, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
Cluster: Inequality, Poverty, and Social Welfare Policy (IP&SWP)
Jeffrey Shook, PhD, University of Pittsburgh, Sara Goodkind, PhD, University of Pittsburgh, Lisa Frank, PhD, SEIU Healthcare PA, Gabby Jones-Casey, MSW, SEIU 32BJ and Ben Brewer, SEIU Healthcare PA
Economic, racial/ethnic, and gender inequalities in the U.S. are crystalized in investigations of low-wage work. Contrary to popular notions about low-wage workers being teenagers or low-wage jobs being short-term entry-level positions, almost 60% of low-wage workers are women, many of whom have children, and more than half are in their prime working years (ages 25-54). Further, people of color are more likely than their white counterparts to be paid poverty-level wages. Few low-wage workers transition to higher paying jobs in a given year, and low wages fall far short of meeting workers' and their families' basic needs in much of the country. Recent efforts to raise the minimum raise, such as the Fight for $15 campaign, have directed attention nationally at the situation of low-wage workers; yet the consequences of incremental raises are not fully known – whether additional income offsets potential negative outcomes, such as benefit cliffs – and it is not clear that even $15/hour is sufficient income on which to support a family.

Studying low-wage work and low-wage workers brings historic and contemporary issues of inequality to the fore. Understanding the realities of low-wage employment and low-wage workers' lives is critical if we are to develop effective advocacy and intervention strategies that promote social, economic, and racial justice, while meeting people's immediate needs. Both quantitative and qualitative investigations are needed to shed light on the strengths, hardships, survival strategies, well-being, and aspirations of low-wage workers and their families, as well as on the community, organizational, and policy factors impacting workplaces and workers. To engage in such studies and to produce meaningful results requires us to collaborate with other interested stakeholders, be they unions, advocacy and community groups, employers, or individual workers.

The proposed roundtable brings together researchers and stakeholders involved in studying the effects of wage increases for low-wage workers, at a variety of sites and via a variety of methods. Participants include researchers conducting multiyear quantitative and qualitative studies of low-wage workers in health and security industries and union representatives representing these workers. The goal of this roundtable is to increase social work researchers' knowledge of the value and complexities of research involving university-community collaborations, as well as skills in addressing these complexities. The roundtable will identify challenges that arise in such collaborations, such as the development of respectful, egalitarian partnerships, the importance of communication, the challenges of balancing differing priorities and timelines, the need to maintain independent identities while working together, and the test of sustainability. Attendees will receive training in how to collaborate with community partners in addressing these challenges. The roundtable will provide perspectives that support the participation of social work researchers in collaborative investigations with community stakeholders and will highlight the importance of studying how low-wage work informs the lives of social work clients, as we work towards the SSWR theme of reducing racial and economic inequality.

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