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Goldstein criticized for response to benefits problems

Labor Secretary Joanne Goldstein (right) has defended the new online system.
Labor Secretary Joanne Goldstein (right) has defended the new online system.

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John Barrett III, who ran the career center in Pittsfield for nearly three years, said he warned state officials that the new online system for managing unemployment benefits was not ready to be rolled out on its July 1 launch date, anticipating problems that would overwhelm phone lines and career centers.

Several weeks later, when his warnings proved prescient, he spoke publicly about the difficulties the new system had caused jobless workers trying to get benefits. Labor department officials chastised him for comments to the local newspaper, he said, while an “infuriated” Secretary Joanne Goldstein contacted the head of the board that oversees the center and the mayor of Pittsfield to complain.

“She obviously tried to neutralize me,” said Barrett, a former North Adams mayor.

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