Atlanta Councilman and mayoral candidate Andre Dickens wants to create a city labor department

Councilmember Andre Dickens, candidate for Atlanta Mayor, speaks during a press conference at Dickens’ campaign headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, where he announced his proposal for an Atlanta Department of Labor on September 9, 2021. (Rebecca Wright for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Rebecca Wright for the Atlanta J

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Councilmember Andre Dickens, candidate for Atlanta Mayor, speaks during a press conference at Dickens’ campaign headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, where he announced his proposal for an Atlanta Department of Labor on September 9, 2021. (Rebecca Wright for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Rebecca Wright for the Atlanta J

Atlanta councilman Andre Dickens wants to create the city’s first-ever Department of Labor to prioritize job growth, if he becomes mayor.

Dickens said the department would centralize and expand all of Atlanta’s job-related efforts rather than replacing existing programs, such as WorkSource Atlanta. The department would employ a liaison to the organized labor union groups, he said.

Creating a city labor department is a proposal unique to Dickens’ campaign. During his qualifying press conference last month, Dickens said he wants to be the “jobs mayor.”

Dickens said during a Thursday press conference that the department would advocate removal of state wage restrictions on Atlanta, “which would allow us to be able to finally get to a $15 minimum wage for everybody across the city of Atlanta and expand workers protections to more than just our city employees.”

“Since 2010 Atlanta has carried the unfortunate distinction of having the highest income inequality in the nation,” Dickens said. “An Atlantan born in poverty only has a 4% chance of making it to the middle class. We have to do better.”

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The department would also develop youth training and apprenticeship programs in partnership with Atlanta Public Schools, the technical colleges, and organizations focused on low-income communities, such as TechBridge, Dickens said.

Dickens, TechBridge’s chief development officer, touted his creation of TechBridge’s Technology Career Program to successfully graduate more than 400 individuals who obtained jobs with salaries above $50,000, on average.

Dickens, his supporters, and members of the organizations I’m A Father F1rst and Helping Empower Youth gathered at his headquarters in the Old Fourth Ward community to discuss his proposal. Dickens said the city can learn from and support organizations that are already doing the work.

“The Atlanta Department of Labor will ensure that we don’t miss obvious connections and opportunities to partner with outside groups and organizations,” he said.

Dickens said he’s currently reviewing the costs associated with staffing the department in the same process that created the Department of Transportation. But he emphasized it will not create “a huge economic cost,” and that it should “pay for itself” by creating jobs.

Two other city council members — Antonio Brown and Felicia Moore — are also running to replace Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. The other candidates include Kirsten Elise Dunn, Nolan English, Sharon Gay, Mark Hammad, Kenny Hill, Rebecca King, former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, Walter Reeves, Roosevelt Searles III, Richard Wright, and Glenn Wrightson.

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