Workstation on ballot amid challenges | New

ATLANTA — Amid a challenging state Labor Department, voting is now underway to choose a new commissioner to oversee the agency.

Current Labor Commissioner Mark Butler, a Republican elected to the post in 2010, decided not to run again at a time when the Georgia Department of Labor was embroiled in a lawsuit over backlogs and delays in unemployment claims while throughout the pandemic.

Under the settlement approved in late June, the GDOL — which administers unemployment insurance, employment service and training programs, and provides job reports and workforce information — agreed to upgrade and improve communication systems, including the implementation of artificial intelligence to streamline the appeal process.

In a debate hosted on October 18 by the Atlanta Press Club, the candidates offered their goals for improving GDOL if elected to the seat.

William Boddie, a Democratic state representative, said he plans to increase staff and advocate for more money to staff a call center.

Boddie has frequently relied on the leadership of a former three-term Democratic Labor Commissioner, Michael Thurmond, who notably overhauled customer service and efficiency in the Labor Department.

“As a state legislator, I got these phone calls from voters across the state of Georgia who couldn’t reach anyone on the phone with the Georgia Department of Labor,” Boddie said. “And so what I’m going to do is make sure that we’re proactive and deal with the issues that come up by making sure that the Department of Labor is fully staffed. Right now that Ministry of Labor has only 1,100 employees. I will go back to 4,000 employees as it was when Michael Thurmond was Commissioner of Labor.”

Boddie said he also wants to increase the number of career centers to include at least one career center in counties with populations over 25,000.

Bruce Thompson, a Republican state senator, said the upgraded technology will help the department run more efficiently.

“When you’re bringing in the technology, you don’t need to bloat that staff,” Thompson said. “The whole point of introducing technology is to become more efficient, more efficient, and every business person who hears this knows that’s how you become more efficient and bring money to the bottom line. .”

With economists predicting a US recession within the next 12 months, the Labor Department will likely be swamped with jobless claims. Thompson discussed his plans to prepare, if elected.

“We’re going to make sure that when people call or contact the agency and they contact us, they find someone and that we respond very quickly to meet their needs,” Thompson said. “On top of that, we’re going to make sure we have a follow-up for them.”

Libertarian candidate Emily Anderson also expressed frustration with the Labor Department’s lack of responsiveness.

“It’s really just trying to get somebody on that phone, especially when you’re not able to come by and do what you need to do on the website, what you should be able to do,” said she declared. “As far as getting these staff, there’s no reason why we can’t hire anyone, answer the phone at home or come to one of the vocational training centres. “

Concluding during the debate, Boddie said that if elected he planned to work for decent wages and equal pay for women. Thompson said one of his priorities is to create a scholarship program for young agency workers who can be mentored to master soft and hard skills.

General elections are held on November 8. Early voting began on October 17.

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