First Lady calls on America to ‘join forces’ to provide jobs to military spouses



By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer


First Lady Michelle Obama announced a new private sector commitment to offer jobs for military spouses.

During a conference call April 4 with reporters, including the MSR, Mrs. Obama said 11 companies have pledged to provide more than 15,000 jobs to military spouses and veterans by 2014. She and Dr. Jill Biden, the vice-president’s wife, started “Joining Forces” a year ago last April to support service families.

Military families are 10 times more likely to move across state lines than civilian families, and home-based jobs can move with military spouses as they relocate from base to base across the country.

These home-based jobs, mostly in telemarketing and customer service, are “flexible, portable job opportunities,” explained the first lady, “that will allow military spouses to be able to earn the living that they need, but also to have the flexibility to handle their business and to move with their jobs and not have to worry about the stress of finding a new job.”

Providing such jobs, says Mrs. Obama, could be “the beginning of a broader conversation among the business community about how to structure opportunities that meet the needs of families. As a working mother myself, I have fought throughout my career for flexibility that these jobs offer. All of us as parents understand that in this modern-day culture, when we are juggling so much, having jobs that offer us that kind of flexibility and portability is the way of the future. Our military spouses are helping to lead the way.”

Joining Forces Executive Director Brad Cooper, who also is in the military, pointed out that it’s not just stay-at-home jobs: “Some are entry level; some are intermediate level and some advanced, depending on the type of job. Each of these organizations presents the opportunity for military spouses to move up in the organization based on their performance,” he pointed out.

Hilton Hotels are among the 11 new companies. They pledged 3.5 percent of their call-center positions to military spouses through 2014. The worldwide hotel chain employs nearly 800 service people in their hotels and offices around the world.

“There are so many companies who have stepped forward,” added Mrs. Obama.

The 15,000 new jobs “is another step forward, a meaningful commitment that is going to make a really huge difference for so many of our nation’s military spouses,” stressed the first lady. “These men and women take on so much. Every couple of years they are packing up and moving from state to state. Oftentimes they are doing the work of two parents. They are balancing the demands of family, community and trying to keep their own job together — hoping and praying that their loved one comes home safe.”

Military spouses can be successful “whether it [is] for-profit companies, a nonprofit organization, a church or they are volunteering,” she said. “These types of jobs will help give them the type of flexibility that they will need not only in their careers but in the rest of their lives as well.”

Mrs. Obama plans to visit four states in two days next week to mark the Joining Forces campaign’s first anniversary: “We are very excited about the accomplishments — every day, each week we are building commitments as we move forward.

“We have been defining the challenge, and giving the country — employers included — a better sense of who these families are and just how valuable [they are] to us,” said the first lady. “The point we are trying to make is that these men and women are valuable resources to this society, and not many people have thought about it.”

Mrs. Obama concluded that 15,000 jobs “get us off to a pretty good start. It is not enough until every military spouse has access to employment opportunities that they need. This is the beginning and we are going to keep shaking the bushes for more opportunities.”


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