Initiative Shows Federal Government to be 'Model Employer'
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 28, 2006 Labor and Defense Department officials celebrated the federal government's support of National Guardsmen and reservists and the government's role as a "model employer" at a ceremony here today.
David S.C. Chu, under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness (left), Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, and Thomas F. Hall, assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs, stand beside a statement of support for Guardsmen and reservists. The June 28 ceremony at the Labor Department's Frances Perkins Building was held to celebrate a statement of support for National Guardsmen and reservists by all of the president's Cabinet members. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
"The message to America, to employers, to Guardsmen and reservists is your government is a model employer -- your agencies, your secretaries," Thomas F. Hall, assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs, said.
Today's ceremony concluded an initiative to have all 16 cabinet secretaries sign an Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve statement of support. The heads of all 80 federal agencies also have signed the statement, Hall said.
The statement signed is a 5-Star Statement of Support for the Guard and Reserve, meaning that the highest support criteria established by the Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve have been met. Those criteria include an employer's willingness to sign a public statement of support, compliance with the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-Employment Rights Act and adopting policies that go "above and beyond" what's required by law in supporting Guardsmen and reservists.
While reserve component personnel are a part of the Defense Department, it's the Labor Department that enforces the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-Employment Rights Act of 1994. The act protects servicemembers' re-employment rights when returning from a period of service in the uniformed services, according to the Labor Department's Web site.
"This is the first document in U.S. history that has been signed by all the members of a president's Cabinet in support of the National Guard and Reserves," said Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, the first non-defense cabinet member to sign statement, said. "This is an historic and sweeping pledge to support our Guard and Reserve."
That pledge is of the utmost importance, David S.C. Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, said. It's a reassurance that Guardsmen and reservists will have their job and benefits when they return from a mobilization. "Our nation could not meet its challenges today without its Guard and reserve forces," he said of the nearly 100,000 reserve component forces currently on active duty.
Chu said he believes it's important that the federal government, as the nation's largest employer of Guardsmen and reservists, set an example for supporting these employees. It was in that spirit that the secretary of defense invited his fellow cabinet members to sign this declaration of support, he said.
"It's important because it symbolizes the federal government's commitment to its employees who are also members of the reserve and the Guard," he said of the 5-Star Statement of Support. "This is the embodiment of all the cabinet departments and all the agencies of our government to the principles of appropriate employer support to Guard and Reserve members."