Reginald Williams

Special to the AFRO

America’s public service sector is suffering from retention and a chronic shortage in staffing that undermines the effective delivery of public services to its citizens. 

Nationwide, there are more than 970,000 available jobs.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) launched the Staff the Front Lines Bus Tour to address the crisis in public service. 

The job fair will be held in Baltimore on Sept. 9 at the AFSCME Labor Hall, located at 1410 Bush Street, Baltimore, Md., 21230. The event will take place from 9 a.m. until noon and Maryland Gov. Wes Moore and Baltimore City Mayor Brandon Scott will be in attendance. 

The tour is a comprehensive effort that includes hiring events, legislative advocacy, and fostering partnerships. The initiative seeks to establish a national job training and development center to build a sustainable pipeline into public service.

“We are trying to fill those vacancies because they have huge implications,” explained Lee Saunders, national president of the AFSCME. “These vacancies impact our current members performing those services because they are having to work overtime. They’re working on the weekends. They are burnt out, to be quite honest.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Maryland has had as many as 220,000 unfilled positions since the pandemic. Maryland’s correction facilities have more than 3,400 job opportunities.

The stress and strain placed on current workers have caused many to leave the public sector and seek employment in the private sector. Sanitation workers, nurses, 9-1-1 dispatchers, and school bus drivers are just a few affected workers. Filling those vacancies is vital to making communities nationwide safer and healthier. 

“Ultimately, services are being harmed by not filling those positions,” explained Saunders. 

Kentucky’s largest school district canceled classes for three days at the start of the 2023-24 school year because, on the first day of school, children arrived home after 10 p.m. Not knowing where the children were, several parents called and reported them missing.

The bus tour, set to stop in more than 20 cities, has already appeared in San Diego, CA., Phoenix, AZ., Rochester, NY., and Minneapolis, MN. 

On average, the pay for the positions that need staffing do not provide a salary greater than the private sector; however, those jobs offer excellent wages, benefits, and retirement packages and greater job security. 

The AFSCME, which serves 1.4 million members, seeks to solve the understaffing phenomenon creatively.

“We wanted to be creative about how we deal with this problem. We know that in order to deal with this problem, we must have elected officials who understand and recognize that this is a big issue,” Saunders said. “So, we wanted to publicize it. We wanted to talk about it. We wanted to bring elected officials to the table to help solve it.” 

To learn more about the Staff the Front Lines initiative, visit

Reginald Williams, the author of “A Marginalized Voice: Devalued, Dismissed, Disenfranchised & Demonized” writes on Black men and Holistic Health concerns. Please email or visit for more information.