September 25, 2023

Spread the Word: Public Service Matters!

Across the country, states, cities and towns are facing massive staffing shortages. The situation in Illinois is no different. Public service workers at every level of government are on the job around the clock, caring for our communities and responding to emergencies. But they need help.

Pandemic job cuts and hiring freezes slashed the public service workforce. Today, the public sector—including teachers, firefighters, probation officers, school bus drivers, CNAs and many more—is still hundreds of thousands of jobs short of pre-pandemic levels. Hiring isn’t happening fast enough to fill vacancies, which is putting a strain on the everyday heroes who keep our communities running.

Council 31 is pressing governmental entities large and small to modernize their hiring systems and work harder to recruit qualified candidates. Progress has been made, but true change has been far too slow.
AFSCME members have had to cope with the dire effects of the staffing crisis for going on two years—often being forced to work excessive amounts of overtime on a regular basis. It’s cost precious time that could have otherwise been spent at Little League games and birthday parties. It’s taken a toll onour mental well-being and our ability to perform our jobs to the best of our abilities.

In the pages of On the Move over the last several months, readers have seen firsthand accounts of the staffing crisis from their fellow union members. AFSCME members have reported crushing overtime; one correctional officer reported routinely working between 50-80 hours of overtime every two weeks. Excessive mandatory overtime has caused marriages to suffer and led to more stress-related illnesses and substance abuse.

Now, AFSCME International has launched a nationwide “Staff the Front Lines” campaign to raise awareness of this crisis and boost hiring in the public service across the country. The moment is ripe to rebuild the public service workforce in states, cities and towns, school districts, residential care facilities, and everywhere in between.

It’s time for each of us to take up the mantle. Let friends and family know that there are thousands of available jobs in the public service that make great careers and offer the stability they need to provide for themselves and their families.

Let’s spread the word together! Public service offers good union jobs with fair pay and attractive benefits.

Sam Doty
911 Dispatcher, City of DeKalb
AFSCME Local 813

There are only eight employees in DeKalb's 911 dispatch. There are 16 total full-time positions. Apply for jobs with the city of DeKalb here.

“We all enjoy that no shift is the same. In the office, we work well together and have a tight connection. We enjoy serving the people that need help because they have no one else to turn to. A lot of people are dependent on the public sector to help with the serious issues that they have never dealt with before. We have great benefits we have fought for and continuously try to make our jobs better. The job is stressful, but it is equally rewarding.”


Lynn Fields
Correctional Lieutenant, Southwestern Correctional Center
Local 3654

Southwestern Correctional Center is currently short approximately 50 correctional officers. There are even more office and support staff vacancies. Learn more about careers in IDOC at the link here.

“If you have a love for service and a love for people, this is a great job. It’s a blessing to have this job because you get to see the impact you have on those you work with. Providing correctional and rehabilitation services to people, you have no idea how well you’re able to help people until you see it firsthand. We’re compensated well, and there are plenty of opportunities for advancement.”


Demetrius Brown
School Bus Driver, Joliet Township High School
Local 197

Joliet Township High School typically has 110 bus drivers. Today, they only have 80. Apply for jobs as a bus driver in Joliet here.

“Once you get into the job, there are all sorts of extra ways you can make money, like washing the buses and going around and checking the oil. We have full benefits through our union contract, plus you get an extra $75 per week for showing up to work. If you like working with kids, this is the job for you.”


Carmen Carter
Security Therapy Aide II, Elgin Mental Health Center
Local 26

Elgin is short 100 staff members. Nearly half of the vacancies are for security therapy aides. Apply for jobs in IDHS here.

“It’s fulfilling to be there and be a part of helping and engaging with the patients. The pay is good because of the union. Between all the paid holidays and vacation days, you’re able to build and grow your family. I’ve been there 13 years, and since then, I’ve been able to accomplish a lot of things that I wouldn’t have been able to do without a union job.”

Chuck Carver
Building Service Worker, Illinois State University, Bloomington
Local 2645

At full staffing, ISU has 110 building service workers. 30 of those positions are vacant. Apply for building service positions at Illinois State University here.

“Illinois State is an awesome place to work, and our union is continuously trying to make it even better. Our benefits are really good and the union gives you protection. You get to meet people every day that you would normally never meet. You come to work and even if you’re feeling down, you see the students’ positive outlook, and it just lifts you back up again.”

Jacob Cleary
Librarian IV, Chicago Public Library
Local 1048

Of the 1,150 funded full-time employees in the Chicago Public Library system, nearly 250 of them are vacant. Apply for jobs at Chicago Public Libraries here.

“Working with the public at Chicago Public Libraries and providing library services in every Chicago neighborhood is a rewarding experience. You get to help people read, learn and discover through their lives. If you enjoy working with the public, you would enjoy working at CPL. You would also enjoy the strong wages and benefits that our union has won for CPL employees.”

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