Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen and Secretary of Labor Alexis M. Herman sent a memorandum July 6 to the other members of President Clinton's cabinet requesting that they become model employers to government employees serving in the National Guard and Reserve.
In the memorandum, Cohen and Herman challenge all federal agencies to support their employees beyond the requirements established in the 1994 landmark legislation -- Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, or USERRA.
This memorandum comes on the heels of a June 8 ceremony in which Cohen went to the world's largest business federation, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, to sign a pledge for companies not to penalize employees who take time off for voluntary service in the Reserve components.
He told business leaders that the heightened role of the Reserve components means that 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 260,000 members of the National Guard and Reserve served in Operation Desert Storm in 1991, and so far 17,000 have been called to active duty to support peacekeeping operation in Bosnia. The Reserve forces also carry out a wide range of domestic response missions, including disaster relief, and the just-approved formation of 10 National Guard units to provide emergency response in the event of a domestic chemical or biological warfare attack.
Through the model employer initiative, Cohen and Herman hope to achieve the goals of USERRA in the public sector by promoting and facilitating communication and cooperation between federal employers and their employees who participate in the National Guard and Reserve.
"Federal employers and supervisors should set the example for the private sector to emulate in flexibility, communication and support to their employees who serve in the Guard and Reserve," Cohen said. "USERRA was enacted to encourage Reserve service, to minimize disruption at the workplace and to prohibit discrimination against employees because of their service. This initiative is intended to raise the awareness of all employers, public and private, so that together, we can do even more."
For more information, news representatives are encouraged to contact Lt. Col. Jeff Davis, National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, 1-800-336-4590.