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Center for American Progress

RELEASE: State-Union Partnerships Can Help the Public Sector Labor Shortage
Press Release

RELEASE: State-Union Partnerships Can Help the Public Sector Labor Shortage

Washington, D.C. — State and local governments are struggling to attract and retain well-qualified workers, with public sector employment below levels seen prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. A new Center for American Progress report examines how partnering with unions is an opportunity for state and local governments to attract, retain, and train new generations of public sector workers. As the Baby Boomer generation rapidly retires, partnering with unions will ensure that public sector employers are able to uphold their high-quality standards, connect and recruit a new generation of public service workers from local communities, and address the nation’s public sector hiring challenges.   

This new report examines four initiatives from across the country that have helped stabilize the public sector workforce, recruit a diverse workforce, and provide high-quality training. The report also urges policymakers to look to these partnerships as models for potential recruitment benefits and partnerships. The profiles in this report include:

  1. Washington state’s Imagine Institute, created through collective bargaining between the state and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 925 members, provides professional development tools and training and builds career pathways for workers in the child care industry as part of a comprehensive effort to improve access to affordable high-quality care.
  2. Uplift Oregon, a partnership between the state of Oregon, SEIU Local 503, and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 75, trains new public employees to understand and effectively navigate state health and retirement benefit plans.
  3. Grow-your-own partnerships between school districts, local unions, and colleges and universities offer experienced school staff and community members access to high-quality teacher training.
  4. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and District Council 37’s Green Jobs Training Initiative delivers environmental literacy and technical training to new and incumbent workers in order to green the state’s building stock.

“State and local governments are struggling to attract and retain the next generation of public service workers. In combination with actions to increase funding for public budgets, combat COVID-19 burnout among essential service workers, and close the growing pay gap between the public and private sectors, training partnerships with unions can help attract well-qualified workers to fill essential public service roles,” said Karla Walter, senior director of employment policy at CAP and author of the report. “Unions’ mission and democratic structure provide the groundwork for building high-quality training programs that serve the needs of workers and employers. Increasing the use of these partnerships can also help enhance workforce skills, boost worker productivity and quality of public services, and ensure that the public workforce reflects the diversity of the communities it serves.”  

Read the report here:How States and Unions Can Partner To Build the Public Sector Workforce” by Karla Walter  

For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, please contact Sarah Nadeau at [email protected].

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