America Supports You: City Employers Recognized for Military Support
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 26, 2008 The oldest and largest group representing American cities has thrown its support behind an effort to recognize employers’ support of military members.
The National League of Cities signed an Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Statement of Support on Sept. 17. ESGR, a Defense Department group, works to promote understanding between employers and their military employees. It provides volunteers who offer mediation and education services to employers, Guard and reserve members and their families.
“What we were trying to do is acknowledge that the members of the Guard and reserve are … individuals who have critical jobs in municipalities in terms of running day-to-day operations,” Don Borut, National League of Cities’ executive director, said at the signing. “At the same time, their military jobs are important in terms of the security of the nation.”
The National League of Cities represents the interests of more than 18,000 cities, towns, and villages. It also provides information and support for those who are in leadership in municipal government.
Frequent deployments make it challenging for municipalities to maintain the same level of public safety, Borut said. At the same time, municipalities recognize the importance of having highly-trained professionals in the military.
“There is a balance,” he said. “For us, it’s valuable and important to be able to affirm the importance of this role and for municipalities to [be able to support] their employees who go off in their military duty.
“One of the things we feel is that the public sector needs to be a model of what we expect from other employers.”
Military employment law – the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act -- spells out what the government requires an employer to do. The league thinks public sector employers take it a step further and go out of their way to make sure families of deployed troops are supported as well, Borut said.
Jim Rebholz, ESGR national chairman, held the National League of Cities up for praise.
“Their members are in the forefront of mobilizations for war as well as natural disasters because a goodly portion of their members’ employees are first responders in their communities,” Rebholz said.
“I think what it does is it sends a signal that the greater good of the country overshadows the temporary inconvenience employers have [when they] mobilize their Guard and reserve employees,” he said.
The strain that mobilizing employees for military duty places on municipalities becomes especially apparent this time of year when mobilizations are on short notice because of natural disasters.
“We are right in the height of a natural disaster season, it seems, [but] they are sacrificing by [working] overtime and adding staff to accommodate the Guard and reserve men and women who are leaving,” Rebholz said.
“Their example should be a model for everybody across the country,” he continued.
When an employer or an organization, such as the National League of Cities, signs an ESGR Statement of Support, it’s a pledge to:
-- Fully recognize, honor and enforce military employment law;
-- Provide managers and supervisors with tools to manage employees who serve in the National Guard and reserves; and
-- Continually recognize and support the country’s servicemembers and their families in peace, in crises and in war.
ESGR is a supporter of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and companies with servicemembers and their families serving at home and abroad.