A commitment to our veterans | Don Brunell

In the midst of seemingly endless partisan arguments in our nation’s capital about how to reduce unemployment, Wal-Mart, America’s largest retailer, announced its own plan to deal with the problem.

In the midst of seemingly endless partisan arguments in our nation’s capital about how to reduce unemployment, Wal-Mart, America’s largest retailer, announced its own plan to deal with the problem.

William S. Simon, president and chief executive officer of Wal-Mart U.S., announced that beginning on Memorial Day, the company will hire any recent veteran who wants a job. Any veteran honorably discharged within the last 12 months is welcome to apply.

Company officials estimate that 100,000 of the company’s 1.4 million U.S. employees are veterans and project that the five-year program will double that number.

“We believe Wal-Mart is already the largest private employer of veterans in the country, and we want to hire more,” said Simon in a Jan. 15 announcement. “I can think of no better group to lead in revitalizing our economy than those who have served in uniform. Through their service, veterans give us a land of freedom. When they return, it must be to a land of possibility.”

Simon stressed that hiring veterans will pay major dividends for employers. ”Hiring a veteran can be one of the best decisions any of us can make. These are leaders with discipline, training and a passion for service.”

The unemployment rate for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is about 10 percent, compared to 7.9 percent for nonveterans.

First lady Michelle Obama called Wal-Mart’s announcement “historic.”

“Wal-Mart is setting a groundbreaking example for the private sector to follow,” noted Obama. “As our wars come to an end and our troops continue to come home, it’s more important than ever that all of us — not just government, but our businesses and nonprofits as well — do our part to serve those who have served us so bravely.“

The first lady is spearheading the administration’s effort to encourage private employers to hire veterans. The program, Joining Forces, works to connect service members, veterans and military spouses with the resources they need to find jobs.

As evidenced by the Joining Forces program, assistance efforts are increasingly recognizing the sacrifices made by military families. Many of the service members in today’s volunteer military are married with young children. Their spouses and children subsist on low military pay and often bear the brunt of the impact when returning service members can’t find a civilian job.

Our state plays a major role in veterans’ assistance efforts. Washington is one of 22 states with favorable state laws or policies for military spouses, and as chair of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., is on the front lines of veterans issues. Her perspective is shaped by her personal experience as the daughter of a disabled World War II veteran and what she saw as a college intern in a Seattle Veterans Administration psychiatric ward.

In 2010, Murray sponsored the Veterans Employment Assistance Act, a series of proposals to improve training, skills transition, education and small business assistance programs for veterans. In 2012, she co-sponsored the Veterans Jobs Corps Act, designed to increase training and hiring opportunities for veterans as police officers, fire fighters and other first responders.

The support for America’s veterans is in stark contrast to the treatment of Vietnam veterans who were ridiculed and spat on by protesters. Today, most people set aside their differences on U.S. military policy and support the veterans who serve on our behalf.

Helping our unemployed veterans is an example of how government and the private sector can work together on a major problem.

Hopefully, we can use this successful public-private partnership as a blueprint for tackling the rest of our nation’s challenges.

More in Business

Remember 1993

Twenty-five years ago, business took a beating in Olympia. The swing to the left in the 1992 general election was swift and potent. It drove higher costs to employers and more government regulations.

Rural prosperity essential to Washington

While Seattle is growing rapidly, our rural areas continue to struggle. They don’t have the corporate giants such as Amazon, Microsoft and Boeing creating jobs and economic opportunities. Farms are predominantly family-owned.

Amazon’s plan reminiscent Boeing’s Chicago move

Last year, Seattle Times aerospace reporter Dominic Gates wrote about the similarities and differences between Boeing’s corporate office move to Chicago and Amazon’s plan for a second headquarters.

LiveLocal98022 meeting cancelled

Bob Green, the night’s speaker, notified the organization he couldn’t attend due to an illness.

Expanded Panama Canal among challenges for Washington Ports

The $5.4 billion spent to expand the Panama Canal is paying off for East Coast and Gulf of Mexico seaports; however, it is putting more pressure on the Northwest to remain competitive.

Players taking a knee hurting the NFL | Don Brunell

On a recent Saturday afternoon in Portland, a young woman stepped onto the playing field at the beginning of the University of Montana vs Portland State football game and started singing our national anthem. She immediately drew a blank on the words and briefly stopped, but as she started apologizing, the fans spontaneously took up the singing.

New metal collecting machine may clean up contaminated waters

There is a new machine being tested in Montana which could decontaminate toxic mine tailings while recovering valuable precious minerals for everyday use.

Workshop will focus on business, social media

All are invited to learn how social media can impact business and how it can be used to create a positive experience for customers.

Impact of Hirst decision must be address

In Washington, the legislative stalemate over permitting new household wells and the state’s construction budget has not only delayed needed funding for public projects, but triggered yet another salvo in the wider conflict over future supplies of fresh water for people, fish and farms.

Mitigate massive wildfire danger | Don Brunell

At last count firefighters were battling 82 major wildfires in 10 western states. The fires have already scorched 2,300 square miles of forests and range lands, dislocated thousands of people, and burned hundreds of homes and buildings.

Silver linings to Hurricane Harvey | Don Brunell

All of the things that went wrong in New Orleans with Hurricane Katrina in 2005, appear to have been corrected with Houston’s recent Hurricane Harvey. Chalk it up to a series of important lessons learned.

Workshops aim to help small business owners and startups | Pierce County Library System

Pierce County Library System, in partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), is offering two workshops to help entrepreneurs start and grow a successful business as well as share tips to advance existing small businesses.