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.


Undocumented

Protestors chanted “Undocumented! Unafraid!” on March 6 against the Board of Regents’ 2010 decision to ban undocumented students from enrolling in the top five research institutions in Georgia.

The Economic Justice Coalition and Freedom University both housed in Athens joined forces after the rally for the Lift the Ban movement addressing undocumented students banned from applying to the top five higher education institutions in Georgia.

The Economic Justice Coalition met to discuss joining forces with Freedom University on the Lift the Ban and Raise the Wages movements in Athens on March 21.  Both groups anticipate that joining forces will create a bigger buzz on the two issues affecting Athens. The Executive Director of the Economic Justice Coalition Linda Lloyd plans to use grant money to fund both of the projects.

Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama ban students who cannot prove lawful United States citizenship from enrolling into certain universities within the states. Georgia’s ban prevents undocumented students from enrolling in the state’s top five research colleges that are the University of Georgia, Georgia College and State University, Georgia Institution of Technology, Georgia State University and Georgia Regents University.

Athens Technical College allows undocumented students to enroll. But state laws require undocumented students to pay international tuition fees according to the Vice President of Student Affairs at Athens Technical College, Andrea Daniel.

“If an international student does not provide proof of residency and lawful presence then they must pay four times the tuition rate,” Daniel said.

Representatives from Freedom University and the Economic Justice Coalition hope that the conjunction will create a large enough out cry to persuade the Board of Regents to lift the ban against undocumented students.

The issue of undocumented students ignited with the Jessica Colotl case. Colotl enrolled at Kennesaw State University in 2010 but sparked controversy after a traffic violation arrest. She was arrested for traffic violations and later for making false statements regarding her citizenship status and denied from attending classes during the case. The Economic Justice Coalition worked since 2006 to address local issues of immigrant rights.

The Economic Justice Coalition appointed a Latino Outreach coordinator. They organized an Immigration Rights march with 1,500 people in Athens, Georgia in the spring of 2006 and have worked with the local Latino community ever since.

The coalition organized English as Second Language training classes for day laborers in 2008. The classes helped Latino workers communicate with employers and opened up new job opportunities. The coalition developed a nonprofit business to give African-American and Latino day laborers employment.

Colotl’s case initiated the Georgia legislature to draft House Bill 59 and Senate Bill 458. The bills banned undocumented students from receiving post secondary institutions in the state of Georgia in 2011. The bill required students to pay out-of-state or international tuition rates for schools in the state. The March 6 rally held around the arch fell on the 30th day of Georgia’s legislature session. However, the topic of undocumented students was not considered during this year’s session.

Local school efforts ease the burden some undocumented students face. Athens Technical College supports international students in other ways besides financial hardships attendees face.

“International students have access to a host of support programs that all students use,” Daniel said. “ATC [Athens Technical College] offers free tutoring services, a host of student organizations are available for students to become involved with and Career Services are also available. There is an International Club on campus and this organization often works with Rotaract here at the College on International projects.”

However, the largest problem that enrolled undocumented students face is financial aid. The in-state full-time tuition rate at Athens Technical College is $1,455 compared to the international full-time rate of $5,820. The college addresses issues outside of financial ones due to strict limitations of state laws and the demographics they tend to recruit.

“We really aren’t aware of any issues on campus other than when students state they can’t qualify for financial aid,” Daniel said. “Athens Technical College exists primarily to serve Georgia citizens; therefore, non-resident students may enroll in classes on a space-available basis. They shall not displace students desiring to enroll who are legal, permanent residents of the state.”

The demographics of the college’s students are around three percent Asian and four percent Hispanic-Latino.  However, Freedom University’s demographics are 100-percent undocumented students with most students coming from Latina and Hispanic backgrounds.

Freedom University began in 2011 to provide college-leveled classes to students regardless of citizenship status. Some UGA faculty agreed to volunteer teaching classes in undisclosed basements around Athens. Pam Voekel is one faculty volunteer. She spoke with an Athens-Banner Herald reporter about why she wanted to join the cause.

“We asked them as professors what we could do to help as part of that fight and they said well what you can do is teach a class,” Voekel said. “So what we decided to do is open something called Freedom University here in Athens and Freedom University is open to all students regardless of their immigration status or ability to pay.”

Freedom University provides more than education opportunities for the students that face issues outside of the classroom.

Freedom University officials assist students with filling out deferral forms allowed under the Obama administration in 2012. These deferrals allow students to attend schools under a two-year work visa at affordable cost. States like Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina are still hesitant to approve of these deferrals.

Linda Lloyd jumpstarted a partnership with Freedom University on March 21. Lloyd witnessed a movement to fight for undocumented students higher education access rights. She was inspired to help.

“I was so excited about Freedom University and that rally,” Lloyd said. “At least 200 students, they came and I was just impressed with the level of community organizing.”

The partnership between The Economic Justice Coalition and Freedom University centers around a grant the Economic Justice Coalition receives to fund movements like Lift the Ban.

“Right now we are working on the Resist Grant and Resist is a grant we have received since 2003 it was $3,000 but now it’s moving to $4,000 a year and we want to go ahead and do that grant around the UGA Living Wage and Lift the Ban,” Lloyd said.

Undocumented students attend classes today in the basements of Athens, Georgia. The Economic Justice Coalition, Freedom University and other activist groups are determined to see these students attend classes in the classrooms of schools like UGA one day.

Footage of some of the Economic Justice Coalition’s community board meeting on March 21 can be viewed on the video link below.