By Tony Khing
SAN FRANCISCO — Bipartisan agreement for legislation at any level of government is rare. It also helps to have the right subject matter and a supportive partner.
Recently, Congressman Paul Cook (R-Yucca Valley) visited with PG&E officers and members of the company’s Veterans Employee Resource Group at PG&E’s San Francisco headquarters. Cook visited at the request of Tony Earley, executive chair of the PG&E Corporation Board of Directors and a Navy veteran who serves as executive sponsor for the Veterans ERG, and PG&E CEO and President Geisha Williams.
The purpose of the invitation for the retired Marine colonel’s visit was to thank him for sponsoring the Honoring Investments in Recruiting and Employing American Military Veterans Act of 2017, also known as the HIRE Vets Act.
The act, signed into law by President Trump on May 5, was spearheaded by Cook. The HIRE Vets Act establishes a national certification standard that gives employers a benchmark for measuring their progress in veteran hiring against other employers.
The impetus for the act started in 2014 after PG&E’s John Simon, executive vice president and general counsel (then senior vice president of human resources) testified before Congress about the importance of veterans hiring.
“Over the years, veterans have played a big role in helping PG&E serve its customers,” said Simon. “They have the training and skills we require. Their expertise, sense of safety, duty and leadership are perfect for our industry. In addition, veterans should have access to career opportunities after they’ve served our country.”
Simon’s testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity caught Cook’s attention. Cook was familiar with PG&E from his time as a California assemblyman (2006-12). After many brainstorming sessions and meetings, Cook introduced the plan (which was part of H.R. 244, the 2017 Consolidated Appropriations Act) and gave birth to a nationwide recognition program for veterans hiring.
“Some companies talk about hiring veterans, but they’re not committed to that philosophical approach to it,” said Cook. “The HIRE Vets Act gives incentives for corporations to be recognized for their efforts towards hiring veterans.”
When it comes to veterans, political party affiliation is a non-factor. That’s why the bill passed with little objection from the House of Representatives and the Senate. “It’s the one area where you get bipartisan support,” said Cook. “Everyone wanted to take care of the veterans who’ve done so much for our country.
“The bottom line is more veterans are going to have jobs,” he added. “Corporations will have incentives for hiring veterans and that brings it all together.”
Cook was grateful for the support from PG&E.
“They [PG&E] worked very hard on the bill. Getting any bill through legislation is a painstaking process,” he said. “Most people don’t have the patience or the commitment to support that, but PG&E has been with me all along. I wish everybody would help me as much as PG&E did on all of my bills. It would make my job a lot easier. I can’t thank them enough,” he said.
Email Currents at Currents@pge.com.