Pritzker announces emergency hiring plan to address short-staffing in state government
On Aug. 31, the Pritzker Administration announced a new initiative to speed up and expand hiring in state government.
“The State is working to fill vacancies and hire thousands of frontline staff in the Departments of Human Services, Corrections, and Veterans Affairs,” the administration said in a news release. “Today’s announcement emphasizes Governor Pritzker’s commitment to increasing the State’s workforce and ensuring employees have sufficient resources to continue to provide the service that Illinois residents expect.”
Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch welcomed the announcement and said that AFSCME will do all we can to advance that effort.
The initiative comes after AFSCME Council 31 and local unions have been working to draw attention to staff shortages throughout state government. For more than a year, the union has been pushing agencies to revamp their procedures and make filling vacancies a top priority; the council and locals have gained news coverage for the hardships caused by short-staffing, focused a week of social media posts on specific examples, and went to arbitration on a statewide grievance over the failure of DHS to comply with the mandatory overtime MOU.
Most recently, Governor Pritzker met with state employees who serve on the Council 31 Executive Board to hear firsthand the strains that understaffing places on employees and the services they provide. Those AFSCME leaders conveyed in personal and powerful terms the harm that understaffing is causing, and they urged swift action to address the problem.
Around the same time, a federal court lifted the longstanding Shakman decree that contributed to the glacial pace of the state’s hiring practices.
Now the administration is promising specific steps to address the problem.
Specifically, CMS said it will:
- Develop and implement an emergency statewide recruiting campaign focused on staff for DHS facilities, veterans’ homes and prisons;
- Implement emergency retention measures for employees of these 24/7 facilities;
- Work with these agencies and IDES to expand recruitment through community partnerships and outreach to those receiving unemployment benefits; and
- Work with partners in local areas and increase job fairs to find and recruit new employees.
“Through these efforts,” the CMS news release said, “the State is looking to build and retain its workforce with concentration in the following positions: correctional officers, physicians, nurses, mental health technicians, support service workers, social workers, security therapy aids, security officers, and other critical positions…”
AFSCME members know that understaffing persists in other agencies too, especially in DCFS where caseloads are unreasonably high. The union will continue to press for action so that every agency has the staff it needs to meet its mission, ease the burden of mandatory overtime and make employees safer.