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Wu announces worker empowerment dept.

Cabinet seat would consolidate departments protecting workers

Anna Lamb
Wu announces worker empowerment dept.
ayor Michelle Wu participates in the annual Labor Day Breakfast hosted by the Greater Boston Legal Council at the Boston Park Plaza. PHOTO: MIKE MEJIA, MAYOR’S OFFICE

During her speech at the Greater Boston Labor Council’s annual Labor Day Breakfast, Mayor Michelle Wu announced the creation of a new city department aimed at benefiting workers across the city.

Named the “Cabinet for Worker Empowerment,” the new department is set to be led by Trinh Nguyen, who will serve as the city’s chief of worker empowerment. Nguyen is the current director of the Office of Workforce Development.

According to the Mayor’s Office, the new department will be charged with “advancing the well-being of all working Bostonians in both the public and private sectors,” in part by consolidating city departments and agencies that have worked separately on behalf of the city’s workforce. Those include offices and cabinets that oversee workplace conditions and those that advertise job trainings and career opportunities, such as the Department of Youth Engagement & Employment, whose director Rashad Cope is being brought on as a deputy chief.

“[The department will] use every resource, pull every lever available to us in city government to level the playing field for workers,” Wu said during Monday’s announcement.

Also coming on to the new department as a deputy chief is Jodi Sugerman-Brozan, who currently serves as the executive director of the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH). Sugerman-Brozan will be in charge of overseeing worker health and safety and devising strategies to prevent workplace injury.

“In the last five months alone, we’ve seen a fatality, serious injuries, near-accident and multiple fires,” Wu told an applauding crowd at the Park Plaza. “This is unacceptable at our work sites in Boston. Our contractors and construction unions have been partners — calling for a comprehensive safety program that prioritizes worker safety in all projects across our neighborhoods.”

Nguyen, whose accomplishments Wu highlighted include the Tuition-Free Community College Program, the Greater Boston American Apprenticeship Initiative and “various career pathways for the healthcare, clean energy and construction sectors” will also be asked to play a major role in implementing Boston’s Green New Deal for Boston Public Schools.

The Green New Deal, announced in May, includes a priority for the city’s vocational high school, Madison Park, to create a pipeline for green jobs with livable wages, good benefits and strong worker protections.

The mayor said Monday that her new department would create a “new” Madison Park Technical Vocational High School, though details have yet to be released on what that might mean. Wu’s office also has yet to respond to a request for comment on the future of the school, which has continued to struggle to get the resources needed to properly prepare students for the workforce.

“We have an opportunity to extend the legacy of labor as a vehicle for delivering justice across our communities,” Wu said in closing. “Together Trinh, Rashad, Jodi and all of us will work together across city government and industries and sectors with everyone in this room to carry that legacy forward.”