Chamber Signs Employer Support Pledge
By Maj. Donna Miles, USAR
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 11, 1998 The Department of Defense joined the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the world's largest business federation, in signing a pledge June 8 for companies not to penalize employees who take time off for voluntary service in the reserve components.
In chamber headquarters ceremonies here, Chamber President and Chief Executive Officer Thomas J. Donohue called on the chamber's 3 million members to support the pledge. It essentially frees employees to carry out their military responsibilities without fear of losing career opportunities or other company benefits.
In turn, companies agree not to deny employment nor to limit job opportunities because of military service, to grant their employees leaves of absence for military training, and to be sure workers understand their employers' policies.
"I can't tell you how important it is to the Guard and Reserves for employers to make this kind of commitment," co- signer Secretary of Defense William Cohen told chamber members.
He said the military is "stretched very thin" and counts on the reserve components to carry out, or prepare for, a wide range of operations -- combat contingencies, humanitarian missions and peacekeeping operations.
Cohen told business leaders the reserve components' heightened roles mean the days of the "weekend warrior" are over. He urged chamber members "to strike that term from your lexicon. Today we simply can't maintain our military commitments without the Guard and Reserve. We can't do it in Bosnia, we can't do it in the [Persian] Gulf, we can't do it anywhere."
More than 300,000 members of the Guard and Reserve served in Operation Desert Storm in 1991, and so far 16,000 have been called to active duty to support peacekeeping in the former Yugoslavia.
The reserve components also carry out a wide range of domestic missions, including disaster relief, a role Cohen said will increase with the formation of 10 National Guard units to provide emergency response in the event of a domestic chemical or biological warfare attack.
Cohen acknowledged the increased reliance on the reserve components means employers, too, are making more sacrifices for national defense. He praised the business community for its patriotism in supporting guardsmen and reservists called to carry out military missions.
"The support and sacrifice of America's business community has been -- and continues to be -- enormous," he said.