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AFSCME’s Saunders: Truly celebrating public service workers means staffing the front lines

WASHINGTON — AFSCME President Lee Saunders released the following statement in honor of Public Service Recognition Week, May 7-13, 2023:

“Public service isn’t just a job, it’s a calling. Public service workers, from sanitation workers and child care providers to corrections officers and nurses, don’t do this work to get rich. They do it because they are committed to caring for their communities and improving the lives of their neighbors.
“But in almost every sector, public service workers are confronting a severe staffing shortage. State and local governments are still over 350,000 jobs short of where we were in February 2020. While there are hundreds of thousands of open positions, they are struggling to hire new workers. As a result, remaining public service workers are forced to pick up the slack. They are putting in overwhelmingly long hours and dealing with worsening conditions. It is a dangerous, untenable situation that is also hurting the communities that rely on the essential services we provide.
“Truly celebrating these essential workers means investing in them, ensuring robust staffing and top-notch public services. It’s not enough to get back to where we were before the COVID-19 pandemic; we must also restore job levels to where they were before the Great Recession when short-sighted cuts were made. We need to fight for fair wages that keep up with inflation and can support a family. We must cut the red tape that slows down hiring and work to attract diverse talent, especially young workers and people of color. Finally, protecting and expanding our voice on the job through our union is critical to retaining experienced, skilled public service workers.
“We cannot continue down this path where the public service shrinks after every crisis. We need to staff the front lines.”

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