May 23, 2024

Changemaker Spotlight: Grace Heffernan, Northeast Ohio Worker Center

Over the course of Grace Heffernan’s 10-year career in the workforce development field, she noticed a pattern she just couldn’t unsee: while an enormous and important amount of effort was being directed to prepare workers for work, very little was being done to prepare work for workers. Therefore, in 2019, when a group of grassroots, community, and labor organizations came together to bring a worker center to Northeast Ohio, she jumped at the opportunity and became the co-founder of the Northeast Ohio Worker Center (NEOWC).

Prior to her work with the NEOWC, Grace was the Director of Community Impact at TPMA where she was responsible for the planning, coordination, and support of teams executing a portfolio of workforce, economic development, and education projects. She also previously served as a Senior Project Manager at Towards Employment where she managed several initiatives aimed at systems level change in the workforce.

A civically active, native Clevelander, Grace serves in roles across several local organizations including the Economic Development Committee of the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Corporation, Cuyahoga County Democratic Party Central Committee, and Towards Employment. She is also the former board chair of the NEOWC.

More about Worker Centers 

Worker centers were born out of the recognition in the traditional labor movement that most working people are not a part of organized workplaces. Without this workplace organization, they are often in need of spaces for relief services for workplace issues and solidarity support.

Worker centers also support community organizing to build power, particularly among low-wage, hourly workers—the ranks of whom are disproportionately made up of workers of color.

If you are interested in learning more about the Northeast Ohio Worker Center, visit and follow @neoworkercenter.

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