Labor Department Takes Care of Veterans, Secretary Says
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 21, 2005 "Veterans make great employees" was the clear message from the Labor Department at a National Press Club event here Oct. 20.
Labor Secretary Elaine Chao addresses leaders of veterans service organizations at the National Press Club in Washington, Oct. 20. She was on hand to announce the department's plans to enhance protection of employment rights for America's veterans. Behind Chao is Charles S. Ciccolella, assistant secretary of labor for veterans' employment and training (left) and Craig Duehring, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
"Today, men and women in uniform ... work so hard on our behalf to protect our freedom (and) our liberty. As they give their best for us, we want to be there for them," Labor Secretary Elaine Chao said, keynote speaker for the occasion. "The good news for returning veterans is that the demand for skilled talent is very strong."
Chao announced the Labor Department's kickoff plans to enhance protection of employment rights for servicemembers, including a public service announcement promoting President Bush's "Hire Vets First" campaign.
Featuring World War II veteran and former Sen. Bob Dole, the PSA encourages employers to hire veterans first for the skills and qualities they possess - discipline, maturity, leadership and a result-oriented work ethic. Dole, on hand with Chao, recalled his service days during World War II and the importance of the GI Bill of Rights that was narrowly passed into law.
"I do want to encourage those listening who are employers to visit the Web site of (the) Hire Vets First initiative," Dole said. "It all started with veterans and others who had served in World War II. Today, I think we ... certainly have an obligation to those who serve and those who go back to civilian life."
Chao also used the ceremony to sign a Five-Star Statement of Support for the National Guard and Reserve as a tangible gesture of the Labor Department's support of the Guard and Reserve and as an example to other employers. She said the more than 3,200 reserve component employees working for the Labor Department have the support they need to fulfill their military obligations.
"I'm honored to have the opportunity, on behalf of the Labor Department, to sign the statement of support ... promising our support to the brave men and women who serve in our National Guard and Reserves," she said.
Chao is the first nondefense Cabinet secretary to sign the agreement with the National Committee for Employer Support to the Guard and Reserve, a Defense Department organization established in 1972 to promote cooperation and understanding between reserve component members and their civilian employers.
Chao said also pointed out that ESGR and the Labor Department's Veterans' Employment and Training Service also have signed a memorandum of understanding to improve cooperative efforts to protect the jobs and benefits of National Guard and Reserve members.
She also talked about the role her department plays in assisting members of the Guard and Reserve through the reinforcement of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act. USERRA protects the jobs, health insurance coverage and pension benefits of reserve component members while they are activated.
In closing, Chao recognized the president's proclamation of Oct. 16 through Oct. 22 as National Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Week.