Updated Wednesday, 12:10 p.m.
WASHINGTON — A coalition of packaged goods companies has pledged to hire 25,000 veterans and military spouses over the next two years as part of White House initiatives to aid military families.
If completed, the massive hiring effort would supply one-fourth of the goal of 100,000 new veteran and military spouse jobs by 2014 set by President Barack Obama in August. It could also provide a major improvement in unemployment numbers among young veterans, a population that has had prolonged difficulties finding post-military careers.
Obama and first lady Michelle Obama made the formal announcement of the jobs pledge Wednesday at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia, as part of the White House’s bus tour promoting a package of job-creation initiatives. The companies making the pledge are members of the American Logistics Association, which includes 270 manufacturers such as Tyson Foods, Coca-Cola, Unilever and ConAgra.
In an advance briefing with reporters, Association President Pat Nixon said most of the companies already share a connection with the military community, providing goods and services to base commissaries and exchanges, military recreation programs and veterans’ canteen stores.
But the new effort will focus on bringing those military families into the companies’ hiring pool through programs such as the Military Spouse Employment Partnership and the Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes initiative.
“The last thing you should have to do is fight for a job when you come home,” Obama told the crowd of troops Wednesday. “These companies here today, they care about this country and those who serve it.”
The jobs also are being promoted as part of the first lady’s Joining Forces campaign, a broad effort of publicity spots and community outreach deigned to highlight the sacrifices of military families.
On Wednesday, Michelle Obama said the companies are turning toward veterans and military spouses “not just because it’s the right thing to do or the patriotic thing to do. They’re doing it because it’s good for their bottom line. They know that these veterans and military spouses represent the best, and they want them on their team.”
The president also repeated his veteran employment plans during the military base visit Wednesday, including highlighting a massive overhaul of post-military employment training and package of tax cuts for firms that hire veterans.
But those ideas have stalled on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers have introduced their own veterans employment measures. Last week, the House passed the Veterans Opportunity to Work Act, a package of job training measures and new cetrification rules desigend to open more career opportunities to former servicemembers.
Obama’s larger job-creation plans have met even stiffer resistance in the Republican-controlled House and even the Democratic-controlled Senate, where last week leaders failed to muster enough votes to advance the legislation.
Nixon could not provide details on the types of jobs being offered by the ALA companies, but said they would include more than just entry-level positions.
White House officials said that prior to the ALA announcement, nearly 100 companies had pledged to hire 12,000 veterans and military spouses over the next two years in response to the president’s August speech.
Despite that, Labor Department statistics show the unemployment rate among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans spiked again in September, hitting 11.7 percent. That’s well above the national rate of 9.1 percent, and the overall veteran’s unemployment rate of 8.1 percent.