Just hours after he was sworn in, Labor Secretary F. Ray Marshall announed a $1.3 billion, three-point program yesterday to find both private and public service jobs for more than 200,000 of the nation's 558,000 unemployed Vietnam-era veterans.
Marshall called the 8.6 per cent unemployment rate for male Vietnam-era veterans aged 20 to 34 a "blight on the nation's conscience," and said President Carter will "approach the chief executive officers of most of the major American corporations to request their support . . ."
He said he didn't know whether the programwould blunt sharp criticsm of Carter's pardon for draft evaders voiced by some veterans' groups. But he said he had worked extensively with veterans' groups to draft the job program, and he thinks they will support it.
Carter ordered him to give top priority to the problem during his first meeting with his Cabinet appointees on St. Simons Island, Ga., the week after Christmas, Marshall said.
He is most concerned about the disabled and black unemployed veterans, the "haadest hit of all," Marshall said.
The most recent data show an unemployment rate among younger black veterans of more than 20 per cent, Marshall said, compared with 18 per cent of all Vietnam-era veterans aged 20 to 24, 12.5 per cent for nonveterans of the same age, and 7.9 per cent for the nation as a whole.
The three major components of Marshall's program are:
A $100 million effort called HIRE that will try to persuade private business to creat 50,000 to 60,000 new jobs and training slots for veterans.It will focus on the disabled first, then on all Vietnam-era veterans, and finally, if there aren't enough veterans in a given community, on "disadvantaged young jobseekers and the long-term unemployed."
Attempts to put veterans in at least 145,000 of the 1,035,000 public service jobs the Carter administration wants to create to ease unemployment. Those 145,000 jobs will cost about $1.2 billion, Marshall said.
A $20 million "outreach" effort that will place disabled Vietnam-era veterans in employment service offices in the 100 largest cities, with at least one such until in each state. Those disabled workers will "concentrate on identifying disabled veterans in need of services and bringing them into the mainstream of the labor market . . .," as well as "developing private-sector jobs for disabled veterans . . ."
Asked how he would ensure that private companies would create new jobs, and not just "push unemployment around" by putting veterans in old jobs, Marshall said he intended to both tighten up administrative loopholes, and compensate employers only for the extra expenses they incur.
He said he hoped elimination of some red tape would keep private industry from opposing this program as it did the Nixon administration's JOBS program, which paid incentives to private business to create jobs.
Carter wants 35 per cent of all new public service jobs to be filled by Vietnam-era veterans, Marshall said, and will ask Congress to amend the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) to allow "preference for Vietnam-era veterans aged 20-24 . . ."
That group bears the heaviest unemployment burden, he said, and more than 20 per cent of the unemployed in that group are nonwhite.
Asked why he did not mention female veterans in his half-hour presentation, Marshall said "We don't collect, unfortunately, statistics on females. That's a thing we need to look at."
Marshall's announcement came four years to the day after the signing of the Jan. 27, 1973 Paris cease-fire on Vietnam, and almost exactly four years after the Nixon administration said unemployment among Vietnam veterans "in effect no longer constitutes a national problem."
President Nixon ordered a "job for veterans" program "of the highest priority" in 1971, to reduce what was then an 11 per cent overall jobless rate among Vietnam veterans.
By January of 1973, propelled by a still booming economy, the overall jobless rate among Vietnam veterans had fallen to 5.5 per cent, just slightly higher than the 5.2 per cent employment rate for the entire civilian work force.
Marshall said he wasn't sure why veteran unemployment is so high now, but the recession played a role.
The Vietnam Veterans Center in Washington complained that the 20-to-24-year-olds that Marshall focused on are too young to have served in Vietnam. They are mostly those forced into the all-volunteer Army by the recession, a center spokesman said.