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Urban Practice  

Wendy Cholico

Social work practice is best understood and practiced when taking into account the local context. The urban context of social work practice may share much with suburban and rural contexts but also brings with it unique problems and opportunities. Location in urban cities plays a major role on the social, economic, and environmental justice of group populations. Within close proximity and density of some locations, groups of people become isolated due to social and economic status. Subsequently, opportunities that foster well-being are limited and environmental hazards such as water and air pollution further suppress vulnerable group populations, limiting opportunities due to structural disparities. Distribution of environments, resources, and opportunities is connected to social justice through the relationship of people and environment, combined by race, gender, and class. Furthermore, gentrification is an evolving social problem that leads to displacement of vulnerable groups, challenging social workers to be social, economic, environmental, and political change agents that disrupt injustices on behalf of marginalized populations.

Article

Welfare Rights  

David Stoesz and Catherine Born

American social and economic justice advocates, social workers included, have struggled to establish a national mindset that welfare is a right, a duty owed to the people by government, not a privilege that can be revoked at will. Industrialized nations with a universalistic, rights-based philosophy have strived to provide citizens with some measure of a basic, minimum income; the United States has not, yet. The United States has been hobbled by ideology; a two-tier system consisting of assistance and insurance; and cultural misgivings about direct, ongoing public payments (welfare) to the poor. Revitalization of a national welfare rights movement, early signals from the Biden administration, and awareness that major social policy changes most often happen at times of crisis offer reasons for a degree of optimism. The COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath are a moment in time—an inflection point—when social workers, because of their training, ethical codes, skill sets, and appreciation of the lessons of social welfare history, could play a key role in charting a new course of action suited to 21st-century needs and realities.

Article

Worker Justice Campaigns  

Fred Brooks and Amanda Gutwirth

If one of the goals of macro social work in the United States is to decrease poverty and inequality, by most measures it has largely failed that mission over the past 40 years. After briefly documenting the four-decade rise in inequality and extreme poverty in the United States, three organizing campaigns are highlighted—living wage, Fight for $15, and strikes by public school educators—that fought hard to reverse such trends. A strategy, “bargaining for the common good,” which was implemented across those campaigns, is analyzed as a key ingredient to their success.