Linda Lloyd: Justice for All

            Silence covers a brick house that was once filled with Athens’ activist. An intern taps computer keys as time winds down on her final day at work. The executive director comes in with final words of thanks and encouragement before sending the intern off to contribute to the economic justice of the community. This is part of a typical day in the life of Linda Lloyd.

            Lloyd serves as the executive director of the Economic Justice Coalition in Athens. She dedicated almost 10 years of her life to the enhancement of others lives and their rights and does not plan to stop in the near future. Her passion to serve others stems from her humbled upbringing and personal experience with economic injustice. Her influence impacts cities around Georgia but centers in Athens, Georgia.

Lloyd had her final meeting with Strozier Monday morning to discuss her learning plan to complete for the internship requirement.  The interaction was brief but substantial to the interns start in the real world of social work.

“I’ve really enjoyed her she’s very caring and nice and so involved in so many different things. She’s really a hard worker she’s also my teacher at Athens Tech,” said Daniela Strozier.

Lloyd recruits social work interns for the Economic Justice Coalition from her classrooms at Athens Technical College. Strozier was Lloyd’s most recent catch whose term as an intern came to an end on Monday. Students complete the internships for an out of classroom experience as well as for course credit. Lloyd enforces “Good News Day” every Tuesday in class. Students share news about something good has happened to them within the week or share something they’ve done good for someone. She believes that when people acknowledge good things they come back to us.

“I enjoy teaching social work because I love my profession,” Lloyd said. “I’m just as excited now as I was 30 years ago about social work to be able to instill this passion I have in others to become foot soldiers and carry on task that need to be done.”

Lloyd described experience as the best teacher, which led to her implementation of the interns for the Economic Justice Coalition. Lloyd’s past experiences inspired her to expose her students to first hand experience and motivated her to work harder for economic justice for all. She also serves as a field instructor of the master’s of social work program at the University of Georgia.

Lloyd swayed in her desk chair as she reminisced about her personal experiences with economic injustice. She experienced two incidents where she knew that something had to be done to stop the unfair pay and treatment of workers.

With closed eyes, Lloyd recalled a termination from a previous job that she challenged in various levels of court.

“In the middle of my career I was terminated without due process after working for this company for 18 years,” Lloyd said. “ I fought that case for 10 years and eventually got my name cleared but now I’m so avid of workers rights because my rights were violated. I try to teach my students that you have to advocate for another person’s rights like they were your own.”

Lloyd served as the first African American female county manager of Green County, Georgia in 2001.  Lloyd was responsible for the management of over $14 million and 150 employees. When she suggested allocating a larger portion of the budget toward raising wages for workers in the county she was confronted by a commissioner. The commissioner scolded her for the request and cursed so loud that others in the building noticed.  Lloyd checked nearby offices to ask others if they heard what happened. They did, but reassured her that her decision came from the heart and referred to her as a breath of fresh air in the department.

“People go bizerk when you talk about increasing people’s wages at the bottom,” Lloyd said. “But I enjoy fighting, I don’t know what else to do when your rights and mine are violated, you can’t just do nothing,” Lloyd said.

            Her firm belief in fighting for others translated back to Athens in the past 10 years through her work with the Economic Justice Coalition and other organizations.

 Lloyd met with a representative from the Peachy Green co-op program to discuss the next step to get the program on its feet in the near future. Lloyd listened with pursed lips and concerned eyes as updates were shared. Excitement took over once she discovered that the program was well on its way to a good start. The meeting was brief but progress was made.

            The Peachy Green co-op is similar to how a food co-op is set up but focuses on providing work for day laborers in Athens. The program started around three years ago when the Economic Justice Coalition created Unity Cooperative Labor partners as a social enterprise. They recruited handymen, lower maintenance workers and cleaning staff. After receiving a planning grant from the Interfaith Worker Justice in Chicago Lloyd along with 15 other businesses built upon the idea of the co-op to make it a reality.

            “We will be Athens’ first worker cleaning co-op and in the south people are familiar with cooperative but they are usually doing food cooperatives,” Lloyd said. “But now in terms of an industry like we’re doing you got other folks that are used to other cleaning co-ops like in the West.”

            The program is still in the beginning stages but affiliates see a promising future for the success of the program. Lloyd understands that in order for the program to flourish she has to be active in the community and with other businesses

“We have to spend time with people,” Lloyd said.  “When you establish a relationship and show people your passion for a cause, they believe you and are willing to help.”

Lloyd twiddled her thumbs as she talked about the wage system at the University of Georgia. She refers to them as slave wages. Lloyd has worked to raise these wages to living wages for employees in Athens and on the University of Georgia’s campus.

“It’s sad to see these workers come in frustrated with the amount of money they make and still see no progress on the issue when new buildings are always being built on campus,” Lloyd said. “The money is there but the activism is missing.”

Lloyd explained that workers are held back from receiving their full wages because the university found ways to get around their own policies. The university is required to pay workers full-time after six months of consecutive work.

The university has around 2,500 employees that are considered part time part-time temporary workers when they are working full- time permanent hours. To get around that workers are paid part time for six months, terminated and then rehired according to various employees of the university. The Economic Justice Coalition views this treatment as unjust.

To fight against it, they work with lawyers who analyze the employee’s cases on an ad hoc basis then provide legal services if need be for the employees. Lloyd believes the Living Wages movement is on a good start to helping these workers move away from slave wages.

When Lloyd finds time to wind down she enjoys staying home.

She kicks off her shoes after work but carries her concerns in her mind one she arrives home. Her husband is the only person in the house now that her daughter ahs moved off to Nashville, Tennessee to teach. Lloyd admits to a new interest in watching soap operas for entertainment and speaking with family on the phone when she can.

“I do too much, I know I do,” Lloyd said. “But people realize that I have passion and a purpose even when I go to Dooly county I’m doing work there.”

Her ultimate getaway is back home to Dooly County but the work doe snot stop there. During her last spring break period, Lloyd traveled home to visit her mother for her birthday but her break was far from a vacation.

Lloyd opened a summer enrichment program and after school program in her hometown of Dooly County in 2004. Both initiatives grew from the basement of her home church building and have had a large impact on her community’s high school graduation rates.  

At the programs inception Dooly County only had 30 graduates from public high schools that most of the black community attended. Yet students from private schools in the county graduated in normal ranks. Lloyd determined that something had to be done. She applied for a grant to start both programs and results were quick to follow.

            “You know I’m a grant writer, and I encourage others to work on a volunteer basis, “Lloyd said. “ Over those years we got over $250,000 and doubled the high school graduation rates in Dooly.”

Lloyd also created the Families First Empowerment Center to help local families understand their rights as workers and how our economy works.

When asked why she continues to work for the benefit of other her answer was simple.

“I was driving down 316 the other day and saw a billboard that said ‘ Happiness is Helping Others’ I think that pretty much sums up why I’ll always fight for the rights of others, “ Lloyd said.

To learn more about the Economic Justice Coalition, make a donation or contact Linda Lloyd follow this link.

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