OAPSE Rallies to Staff the Front Lines

Hundreds of OAPSE, Council 8 and OCSEA members rallied last week to bring attention to the thousands of vacancies across local and state government and schools. Check out the coverage of the event below! And urge your friends, neighbors and family to apply!

‘A career with purpose and freedom,’ Columbus rally recruits public service workers

Grace Tucker

Columbus Dispatch

Ohio native and AFSCME President Lee Saunders addressed the crowd at the 'Staff the Front Lines' rally in Sensenbrenner Park.

Nurses, firefighters, teachers, bus drivers and other “essential workers” were once regarded as “heroes” for serving their communities during the coronavirus pandemic.

But government and union officials said Thursday at a rally that honor seemed to expire after COVID restrictions were lifted. And a green ‘Staff the Front Lines’ bus rolled into downtown Columbus as part of a national effort to call attention to this and to beckon people to open positions in these still-essential jobs.  

Local officials and hundreds of union members gathered in Sensenbrenner Park on the Columbus stop of the national bus tour, organized by the national American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) labor union.

Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin addressed the crowd at the 'Staff the Front Lines' rally in Sensenbrenner Park.

“We have all become familiar with the term ‘essential workers’ that became so popular during the pandemic. But the truth is, you all were essential workers well before COVID came through our communities … so we say ‘Thank you,’” Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin said during the rally. 

Making its way through major cities across the country, AFSCME put together the bus tour in response to the post-pandemic national shortage of public service workers — an issue felt locally in Columbus’ police force and Columbus City Schools bus drivers, among other public sector jobs. 

‘A career with purpose and freedom

The AFSCME tour is adopting a grassroots approach to help fill essential jobs in local and state markets along the tour route. Kicking off on July 17 in Rochester, New York, the bus tour is hosting job recruitment events in more than 20 cities across the country this summer, including Columbus. 

AFSCME President Lee Saunders, a Cleveland native, made sure to include his home state on the tour route to help make Ohioans aware of available public-sector union jobs, of which he said there are currently 970,000 nationwide.

He blames the vacancies partly on lingering pandemic disruptions to the workforce, but also on a general lack of knowledge about the good health, pension and other benefits these jobs come with. 

Angela Williams, AFSCME Local 1632 President, attested to the hearty benefits offered in the public sector in a personal story she shared with rally-goers. 

Williams, who has been working as a public records technician for the Columbus Division of Police for more than 30 years, said transitioning to the public sector completely changed her life for the better.

“Before I came to the Division of Police, I was working at a bank. My son is disabled, and I was a single mother with a job that provided no disability insurance for children and only five paid sick days a year,” Williams said.

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After being laid off from her bank job, Williams turned to the job openings posted by Columbus, where she applied for the records position within the police division. 

Williams said that new public-sector job “led to comprehensive health insurance for my son, who had his physical therapy appointments paid for. And thanks to the paid time off I got with the city, I was able to spend more valuable time with him. Today, he’s a college graduate and an advocate for the disabled.

“I hope that my story can be the same for other working parents and individuals out there in search of a career with purpose and freedom,” Williams said.

Brian Miller, a corrections officer at the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction’s Marion Correctional Institution and a union member, spoke to the crowd about the importance of filling officer vacancies within the state’s prison system. Though the department has made good progress this month, there’s still a long way to go, he said.

Local school officials urge young people to serve

At Thursday’s event, AFSCME members were joined by several affiliate unions who came out to support the call for rebuilding public service staffing, including the Ohio Association of Public School Employees (OAPSE) and the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association (OCSEA).

“There’s no excuse if we continue to not be able to fill these jobs,” Lois Carson, OAPSE president and a secretary at Columbus City Schools, told the group of green-shirted union members, saying there is a current need for 4,000 bus drivers alone at school districts across Ohio.

(From left to right) Ohio Association of Public School Employees (OAPSE) Vice President Mike Lang and OAPSE President Lois Carson welcome the 'Staff the Front Lines' rally bus to town.

Both Carson and Saunders said in their remarks that part of the staffing solution will involve getting young people to become part of the public workforce. 

“Go home, get those grown kids off your couch, have them apply for a job in their nearest neighborhood school, and then you can evict them in about 6 months because it’s a good-paying job with good benefits,” Carson said, prompting laughter and cheers from the crowd. 

Hundreds of union members sporting their green AFSCME shirts rallied in Sensenbrenner Park Thursday afternoon on the Columbus stop of the national ‘Staff the Front Lines’ bus tour.

Saunders, who will continue with the bus tour to New York City after the Columbus stop, said AFSCME is working to recruit young people from coast to coast for public service jobs. 

“We want to connect with young people who don’t know about these jobs, or where to get the information to apply to these jobs,” Saunders said. 

Where to find local public-sector jobs

Hundreds of union members rallied in Sensenbrenner Park Thursday afternoon on the Columbus stop of the national ‘Staff the Front Lines’ bus tour, with signs indicating where local folks can join the public sector and help reduce the essential worker staffing shortage.

The job board for the City of Columbus can be found at this link: https://www.governmentjobs.com/careers/columbusoh?page=2

The job board for Columbus City Schools can be found at this link: https://ccsjobs.org/

The job board for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) can be found at this link: https://drc.ohio.gov/work-with-us

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