Staff the Front Lines bus tour alerts nation, narrows staffing gap in public services

AFSCME’s Staff the Front Lines bus tour, which kicked off in July to sound the alarm about the public service staffing crisis and to recruit passionate people to apply for jobs in public service, concluded last week with its final stop in Baltimore.

All told, the bus, painted in AFSCME green, logged more than 7,800 miles, stopped in 17 cities and attracted more than 2,000 job seekers to hiring fairs in cities nationwide, including in New York; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Los Angeles and Minneapolis and others.

AFSCME also held 11 listening sessions across nine states, which brought together AFSCME members and leaders and elected officials, to hear firsthand from the people who provide our vital public services about the toll the staffing crisis is taking, ways to stem the crisis and encourage people to apply for what are often good-paying union jobs.

The bus tour was part of AFSCME’s broader Staff the Front Lines initiative, a comprehensive effort that, in addition to the hiring events, will include legislative advocacy, extensive partnership building, outreach to underrepresented communities and a robust digital marketing strategy.

“We all deserve to live in thriving communities with clean drinking water, safe roads, strong public schools and good health care,” said AFSCME President Lee Saunders. “But right now, our nurses, school bus drivers, 911 dispatchers, corrections officers and other public service workers are on the front lines of a staffing crisis that is threatening their ability to do their jobs.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistic, as of July 2023, there were 834,000 job openings in state and local governments.

“AFSCME members know our communities best,” Saunders said. “By working together, we can fix this problem.”

The bus tour attracted widespread regional and national media coverage, which spotlighted AFSCME’s leadership role in solving the staffing crisis.

And elected officials, from governors like New Mexico’s Michelle Lujan Grisham, Arizona’s Katie Hobbs, New York’s Kathy Hochul, Connecticut’s Ned Lamont and Maryland’s Wes Moore, to high-level state officials to mayors to city council members, as well as other local officials, turned out to encourage job seekers to pursue careers in public service.

The next phase of the initiative will involve making policy recommendations to lawmakers to accelerate public service hiring and ensure adequate staffing levels. Also, AFSCME is creating a job training and development center to build a talent pipeline and support affiliates as they identify and meet their workforce development needs.