Session: Improving Job Quality in the Aftermath of the COVID-19 Pandemic (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

All in-person and virtual presentations are in Mountain Standard Time Zone (MST).

SSWR 2023 Poster Gallery: as a registered in-person and virtual attendee, you have access to the virtual Poster Gallery which includes only the posters that elected to present virtually. The rest of the posters are presented in-person in the Poster/Exhibit Hall located in Phoenix A/B, 3rd floor. The access to the Poster Gallery will be available via the virtual conference platform the week of January 9. You will receive an email with instructions how to access the virtual conference platform.

05 Improving Job Quality in the Aftermath of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Thursday, January 12, 2023: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Encanto B, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
Cluster: Work and Work-Life Policies and Programs
Symposium Organizer:
Susan Lambert, PhD, University of Chicago
The papers in this symposium focus on the prospects of improving job quality and reducing gendered and racialized employment outcomes during our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has raised the visibility of problematic job conditions in the US labor market, especially in 'essential jobs' in service industries. Workers are responding to poor job conditions in unprecedented ways: the proportion of US workers voluntarily quitting their job is at an all-time high. Employers are facing enormous challenges in recruiting and retaining staff, especially in customer-facing service jobs. Interpreting 'The Great Resignation' as a labor shortage versus a good-jobs shortage is more than just semantics: the former focuses policy makers on changing workers whereas the latter on improving jobs.

Historically, so-called labor shortages have resulted in public policies targeted at training workers for existing jobs or creating new pools of labor for employers, e.g., TANF increased the pool of mothers with young children 'willing' to take low-paid jobs. The last time the US had a sustained focus on improving jobs was in the 1930s with the enactment of the Fair Labor Standards Act. But now, the Biden-Harris Administration has rekindled this focus with their mantra of 'Build Back Better.' The four papers in this symposium take up the charge to use this moment to advance knowledge and policy to improve jobs and, essential to a social work approach, to reduce gendered and racialized disparities in employment.

We begin by providing an overview of the state of job quality during the pandemic. Two papers provide original survey data on diverse markers of job quality during the pandemic, revealing the prevalence and unequal distribution of problematic conditions by worker race and gender and by industry. These papers provide a framework and metrics to gauge possible improvements to qualities of jobs that matter to today's workers. The other two papers unpack the role that employment standards can play in protecting job quality during times of economic and social uncertainty. Drawing on interviews with frontline food service and retail managers in Seattle and Chicago, the third paper examines variation in managers' implementation of fair workweek laws to identify the organizational conditions that smoothed implementation during the pandemic and the conditions that served as barriers to effective implementation, in turn undermining job quality. The final paper addresses a growing barrier to the enactment of employment standards and thus to improved job quality: state-level preemption laws that prohibit municipalities from enacting standards above those set by the state. The penetration of these laws in Southern states is a concrete example of the racialization of employment protections and estimates of lost earnings a warning of the cost of new forms of discrimination to workers, families, and communities. Together, the papers provide conceptual tools and information useful for increasing social workers' participation in research and policy to improve job quality for all.

* noted as presenting author
Attendance Anxiety, Precarious Work Schedules, and Job Satisfaction Among U.S. Food and Beverage Workers during Early COVID-19
Hyeri Choi, MSW, University of Pennsylvania; Ioana Marinescu, PhD, University of Pennsylvania
Creating Resilient Employment Standards: The Role of Fair Workweek Laws in Protecting Job Quality during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Susan Lambert, PhD, University of Chicago; Anna Haley, PhD, Rutgers University; Hyojin Cho, MSW, University of Chicago; Resha Swanson, MSSW, University of Chicago
The Racialized Impact of Minimum Wage Preemption in the South
Resha Swanson, MSSW, University of Chicago
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