National Guard member Vegerano drives a school bus around the base with a safety trainer in Reading, MA on Sept. 15, 2021.
Photo by David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
- From Minnesota to New York, governors have activated the National Guard to ease labor shortages.
- In Massachusetts, over 200 troops were deployed to drive school buses.
- Here’s how — and why — the National Guard is being used to fill essential worker roles.
School districts across the nation struggled to hire enough bus drivers this year. A national driver shortage persists due to a variety of factors, including low wages, COVID-19, a lack of funding, and increased demand for workers with commercial driver’s licenses.
Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
In September, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker activated 250 National Guard members to drive school buses, citing local staffing shortages.
Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
The New York National Guard was similarly activated to combat labor shortages in nursing homes this December. Nearly 75% of nursing homes reported an overall “worsening situation with their workforce” this year.National Guard soldiers help to sign up people for their vaccination appointment at the York College coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination site in Queens.
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The 120 Guard members activated to work in New York nursing homes are certified medics whose civilian jobs “do not involve work in the healthcare field,” Eric Durr, the New York National Guard’s Director of Public Affairs, said.
One of the primary concerns about using National Guard troops to combat labor shortages is that it removes members from their civilian jobs, potentially creating tangential employment gaps.Oregon Army National Guard Soldiers assisted the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) in setting up the Oregon Medical Station (OMS), an alternate site for 250 patients currently in nursing home care.
Sgt. 1st Class Zachary Holden/U.S. Army National Guard via Getty Images
The recent activation is part of the New York National Guard’s COVID-19 mission that began in March 2020. A total of 983 personnel have helped create vaccination sites, logistics facilities, and put together testing kits throughout the state.New York Governor Kathy Hochul
According to US Code Title 32, federally funded National Guard personnel can conduct missions at the direction of the state’s governor. However, not all governors have agreed to send troops on labor-related missions.Troops from the Oklahoma National Guard provided security to the US Capitol after the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Tech. Sgt. Rebecca Imwalle/US Air National Guard
Source: Ed Week
Some worry that funneling military personnel into the workforce will prevent economic corrections for the working class, such as increased wages and improved benefits.Photo of a help wanted sign along Middle Country Road in Selden on July 20, 2021.
Thomas A. Ferrara/Newsday RM/Getty Images
Source: Tribune of the People (Opinion)
The White House even considered deploying the National Guard to work at shipping ports during the supply-chain crisis, but said the move is unlikely.Touring the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
Source: CNN Business
National Guard members have helped administer COVID-19 vaccines across the country. Oregon, California, Maine, New Hampshire, and Minnesota have all activated the Guard for pandemic-related missions this year.An employee receives a COVID-19 vaccine from a National Guard soldier at a pop-up vaccination stand at the Vermont Creamery in Websterville, Vermont on June 29, 2021.
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Since March of last year, 4,000 Ohio military personnel were activated for 70 state missions, including supporting vaccination centers, distributing food at local food banks, and processing unemployment claims.Ohio National Guard members at the state capitol.
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Source: Ohio National Guard
From the pandemic and labor crisis to protests and natural disasters, the National Guard has stayed busy combatting “domestic emergencies” over the past two years. “The scope and duration of the missions have been unprecedented,” Ohio Adjutant General John Harris Jr., said in a statement.National Guard and state police guard the Minnesota statehouse Sunday, May 31, 2020, in St Paul, Minn.
AP Photo/Julio Cortez
Source: Ohio National Guard