Amid a staffing crisis, Philly Mayor Jim Kenney urged people to apply for city jobs: ‘We need your help’
As of last month, nearly 1 in 5 city jobs that are budgeted for were vacant, amounting to about 4,600 open jobs across the municipal government.
Mayor Jim Kenney joined a handful of the city’s top organized labor leaders on Monday to urge people to apply for thousands of open city jobs amid a staffing crisis that has gripped the municipal government.
“We’re down in every category, as every city across the country is,” he said. “Come please. We need your help, and you’ll love it, and you’ll be happy.”
The mayor, who is term-limited and leaves office in January, emphasized the strong health-care benefits that come along with being a member of a unionized workforce as he stood in front of a giant green bus that said “Staff The Front Lines.” He was flanked by Elissa McBride, the national secretary-treasurer of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
AFSCME is undertaking a national bus tour that’s making stops in 20 cities this year to urge people to apply for nearly 1 million open public-sector jobs across the country. Data collected this summer by the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that, after a mass wave of resignations in the past few years, every major industry has recovered to pre-pandemic staffing levels — except hospitality and government.
“Every day these positions remain unfilled, we’ve got work to do, because our communities struggle,” McBride said.
The staffing crisis hit Philadelphia hard. As of last month, nearly 1 in 5 city jobs that are budgeted for were vacant, amounting to about 4,600 open jobs across the municipal government. Hundreds more will open up in the coming years — the workforce is aging, and officials expect an impending wave of retirements.
The vacancies have complicated the delivery of basic city services and have touched every corner of the government, including the police department, which has a well publicized shortage of officers and has struggled to recruit cadets. The Prisons Department has also experienced a severe shortage of guards, leading to what some union leaders have described as chaos in the jails.
Other departments struggling with persistent short staffing include Parks and Recreation, which could not open some city pools on time this summer due to a lifeguard shortage, and Licenses and Inspections, which has been short building inspectors since 2020.
City officials and lawmakers are pouring money into improving recruitment and hiring practices. City Council passed an annual budget in June that includes new perks for workers like expanded parental leave and free public transit vouchers.
Kenney’s administration has also partnered with the city’s major municipal unions to attract and retain workers, a notable arrangement given the unions are soon entering contract negotiations with the city — talks that are, at times, contentious.
The mayor and labor leaders said filling the positions expeditiously is in the best interest of both residents and other workers, many of whom are logging unsustainable amounts of overtime or working in undesirable conditions as a result of short staffing.
McBride said that reality is what led the national union to launch its staffing awareness and education campaign.
“We were hearing from members about what they were facing on the job which is less and less resources and staff to be doing the frontline work in health care and in public service,” she said. “So more and more pressure on folks who stayed through the recession, through the pandemic, and now are as committed as they ever were to service, but are feeling like they need reinforcements.”
April Gigetts, president of AFSCME District Council 47, which represents about 6,000 mostly white-collar workers, said the union plans to advocate during contract negotiations for more consistent remote work opportunities as a way to recruit and retain workers.
Currently, some city employees are allowed to work remotely, but their freedom to do so is largely up to their department head, creating a patchwork of policies across the government.
“The truth is, our states, cities, and towns have some catching up to do,” Gigetts said of the staff shortage.
The bus tour stop included a news conference and a job fair Monday at DC33′s headquarters along the Schuylkill. The tour’s next stop is in Harrisburg.