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Establishing a Cabinet-Level Chief of Worker Empowerment

To ensure a just and equitable recovery from COVID-19, our commitment to working Bostonians must go beyond paying lip service to essential workers, to include structural changes at the City level to close gaps, elevate the dignity of work, and advance the well-being of all Boston workers and their communities.

In recent years, the City of Boston has taken steps to legislate worker protections, but without protocols in place to proactively investigate and enforce, we have continued to see tragic and preventable fatalities. The responsibility for supporting workers and enforcing labor standards is currently spread across several City departments, resulting in a lack of coordination and accountability. Workforce development programs are similarly fragmented—isolated from City procurement and regulatory functions, and out of sync with our broader goals of racial and economic justice, climate resilience, and a healthy, connected city.

As Mayor, Michelle will create a Cabinet-level Chief of Worker Empowerment with oversight and resources to advance working Bostonians in both the private and public sectors:

  • Ensure transparency and accountability for wage theft, workplace safety, and labor law violators through a publicly accessible and searchable database for use by City licensing, permitting, and procurement agencies, and public awareness.

  • Align city contracting with worker advancement through due diligence prior to signing procurement contracts, requiring bidders to disclose forced arbitration policies, and coordinating with City departments to enforce existing standards that give preference to union vendors, the Boston Residents Jobs Policy, and equitable procurement commitments.

  • Serve as a multilingual clearinghouse for all worker complaints received online, by telephone, or in-person by facilitating connections to the appropriate agency or community partners for action, legal assistance, or other resources.

  • Educate and empower workers to come forward and report workplace issues in partnership with labor unions, workers’ centers, advocates, and community groups.

  • Coordinate City workforce development initiatives, including a citywide Urban Conservation Corps, vocational education and training, and partnerships with Boston employers and non-profit advocacy organizations, including education and job training groups.

  • Set policies for worker empowerment in the new economy through advocacy and legislation to create sustainable career pathways for gig economy workers, care workers, and independent contractors—including minimum wage and overtime protections, access to paid sick leave, and other workplace benefits.

  • Support worker-owned cooperatives  by providing funding for technical assistance, educating other City departments about cooperatives’ eligibility for relevant programs, and providing loan guarantor services for cooperatives to access private capital. 

Policies Regarding Collective Bargaining

Municipal collective bargaining agreements are policy documents that should uphold and reaffirm the City’s values of workers’ rights, racial and economic justice, and public health and safety. In consultation with other city departments, the Chief of Worker Empowerment will oversee negotiating and administering agreements with the 21 bargaining units that represent 7,500 City employees:

  • Seek to negotiate successor collective bargaining agreements ready to take effect at the expiration of current contracts.

  • Prioritize reaching agreements on contracts across the bargaining table whenever possible, precluding the need for working with the Joint Labor Management Committee.

  • Avoid hiring or using outside management attorneys to negotiate collective bargaining agreements with city unions.

  • Commit to using Project Labor Agreements for large-scale, multi-step projects as a means to protect workers’ rights, create efficiency and stability, and align major projects with the City’s equitable procurement standards.