Atlanta mayor unveils development of city’s first-ever labor department

The city of Atlanta is finally moving forward with plans to create its first Department of Labor, to prioritize job growth.

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens on Thursday announced that next month his administration is going to propose legislation to establish the Department of Labor and Employment Services. He said the new office will have a $9.4 million budget — including $6.2 million in federal funding allocated to WorkSource Atlanta and the American Rescue Plan. The remaining funds will come from the city’s Gulch redevelopment deal.

The office will begin operations with the new budget cycle in July.

Dickens said the department will be comprised of five divisions: a Federal Programs Division that will house the WorkSource Atlanta program; a local program division; an Office of Labor and Innovation; an administration division with business services, and a Youth Employment Service Division that will house Atlanta’s Summer Youth Employment Program and the American Leadership Institute.

“The department will ultimately oversee the city’s labor efforts, federally funded programs, (and) youth employment services, which includes the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program and the Mayor’s Youth Leadership Institute,” said Dickens. “They will help coordinate with the Department of Human Resources in the city and work with the various labor unions and city employees.”

Credit: City of Atlanta

Credit: City of Atlanta

Dickens made the announcement in Mechanicsville after touring a youth jobs program hosted by the Georgia Building Trades Academy. During the press conference, he introduced Humeta Embry as Atlanta’s new labor liaison officer.

Dickens said Embry is going to lead his three-person Office of Labor and Innovation. She previously served as executive director of the AFSCME Local 1644 union in Atlanta.

Embry said she’s going to be the mayor’s representative in conversations between labor unions and the city’s HR department. She also said they’re going to advocate and negotiate fair wages for private-sector employees outside of Atlanta City Hall.

“This office will serve as an overseer of labor laws and enforcement at all levels throughout the city,” Embry said. “As we began to build out this office, and as the mayor and chief of staff began to search for an executive director, I look forward to working with the teams across the city to ensure all employee needs are met.”

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Sandra Williams, executive director of the Atlanta-North Georgia Labor Council, lauded Dickens for his efforts to develop a stronger workforce in the city. And Atlanta Technical College President Victoria Seals thanked Dickens for partnering with her institution to carry out the city’s initiatives.

Dickens proposed the creation of the labor department last September during his run for mayor. The former city councilman also proposed the idea for Atlanta’s first transportation department in 2019.

“I don’t plan to create new departments every Friday,” Dickens quipped Thursday. “It takes a lot of work, but this one is necessary.”

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