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At Rhode Island bus stop, Staff the Front Lines holds job fair

Rhode Island Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos speaks at today’s Staff the Front Lines bus stop and job fair in North Providence
At Rhode Island bus stop, Staff the Front Lines holds job fair
By Natalia Perez Santos ·

NORTH PROVIDENCE, R.I. – State and local officials joined Rhode Island Council 94 President J. Michael Downey and AFSCME members for a press conference today on the urgent need to fill open public service positions throughout Rhode Island.  

The officials who attended were Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos, North Providence Mayor Charles Lombardi, Rhode Island Veterans Services Director Kasim Yarn, the Department of Administration Director Jonathan Womer, and Gov. Daniel McKee’s Chief of Staff Tony Afonso. 

The press conference coincided with a hiring event at the council’s union all. Job seekers met with public service employers, learned about available jobs and their benefits, and applied for open positions.  

The day before the event, at a private listening session, AFSCME members discussed strategies with elected officials and employers on ways to improve the recruitment and retention of dedicated, qualified public service workers.  

From food service workers, clerical workers and certified nursing assistants to law enforcement officers, chronic short staffing undermines the effective delivery of public services that all Rhode Islanders rely on. That’s why AFSCME launched the Staff the Front Lines initiative this year, to partner with elected officials on recruiting and retaining the essential workers who keep our communities running. The Staff the Front Lines bus is stopping at 20 cities this summer and holding recruitment events at some of them.  

Downey said a public service career is more than just a job. 

“It’s an opportunity to build a career where you can improve and strengthen your community, and there has never been a better time to apply,” the Council 94 president said.  

Downey also thanked the elected officials present for improving pay and benefits for state and local workers.  

“For our state employees, we were able to keep the current health care benefits for the workers, while receiving an increase in the salary of our hardworking members. Our municipal and private employees have also been able to negotiate good increases to their salaries,” he said.  

Lombardi praised public service workers for their dedication to bringing “us all together for a common purpose.” 

“On top of making our communities better, these positions are great union jobs with fair pay, great benefits and retirement and job security. There are several positions open in the Town of North Providence, not to mention the ones available within the State of Rhode Island,” the mayor said.  

Matos touted open positions with the state.  

“I want to ask anyone who is thinking about their career to consider a career in public service. It’s a career in which you have good benefits and the support of a strong union that fights for union rights and the respect of the workers. And you also are able to build a career while serving you community,” the lieutenant governor said.  

Yarn stressed that retaining good public service workers is key, not just recruiting them.  

“We know it’s important to recruit, but we also have to retain. All of our agencies are experiencing vacancies, but today we get to move the needle a little bit, to showcase what we do at the state level,” the veterans services director said.  

Womer pointed out that finding good public service workers is hard given the state’s low unemployment rate.  

“The unemployment rate in Rhode Island is 2%, which is fantastic, but it makes it really hard to do important hiring – especially in the areas of health care, social work and accounting. We’re struggling to find people to fill these positions, but it’s vitally important,” the state administration agency head said.  

Chief of Staff Afonso urged people to apply for state jobs, saying: “Whether you work at the veterans' homes or a (Department of Human Services) call center, each of you may be the only contact that the citizens of Rhode Island have with the state. So, the impact you make and the impression you make is critical to how people see their state government.” 

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