White House Summit Spurs Government-Community Connection in Philadelphia

Filed in Education by on March 7, 2012 1 Comment

I had the privilege of being one of hundreds of leaders from more than 250 entities—representing government, education, private industry and community-based organizations—that took part in the second White House Community Partnership Summit  at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia last Friday. 

Robert Asaro-Angelo, Northeast regional representative for Secretary Solis, provided an overview of the department and introduced agency staff in attendance at the summit.

With 12 planned across the country, these summits connect administration officials and federal agency staff from diverse policy areas with community participants to discuss issues critical to each particular region and the nation.
Most conference agendas are created weeks, if not months, in advance and usually allow for only a handful of topics to be covered.  Summit organizers took a more unique approach by allowing the agenda to be created in real time by summit attendees, using the open space process.

This process afforded every attendee the opportunity to create their own breakout sessions that focused on pressing, current issues facing their organizations and communities. In the span of four hours, community leaders proposed and participated in more than 50 different sessions on topics including college and career readiness, programs for women veterans, fair housing, immigrant integration, discrimination in hiring, greening schools and the Affordable Care Act.

The Department’s “Keeping What You Earn” breakout session focused on the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Wage and Hour Division’s role in protecting worker’s wages.

Representatives from many federal agencies used their organizational and personal knowledge to contribute tremendously to breakout sessions.   I was part of a team from the Department of Labor that participated in more than 20 sessions that helped connect the community with our various worker programs and protection agencies.  For example:

  • The Federal Program Officer from Region 2’s Employment and Training Administration took part in a breakout session on Comprehensive Training and Employment Services for Ex-Offenders to discuss the department re-integration programs and grants;
  • Representatives from our Wage and Hour Division’s Northeast Region and Philadelphia District Offices participated in sessions about Keeping What You Earn to talk about workers’ rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act;
  • In a session about Immigrant Worker’s Rights, staff from our regional and district Occupational Safety and Health Administration offices discussed the agency’s prolific work in reaching out to traditionally- exploited immigrant communities and received great feedback from community members on how to expand those efforts to even more communities where worker safety is a continuous concern.  In this session, staff from both the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and WHD connected with a nurse practitioner who served farm workers and plan to work with her to identify injury and illness trends in the industry she serves every day;
  • Staff from our regional Veterans Employment and Training Services and other DOL employees involved in contracting and hiring took part in a session about How to Help Veterans in the Use of Educational Programs for a Successful Transition.

Department of Labor employees pose for a group shot at the White House Community Partnership Summit. More than 20 staff members from various agencies participated.

It is this ability to directly respond to local needs that made this summit so powerful.  Successfully connecting college students, housing and education advocates, non-profits, small businesses, union members, local elected officials, faith leaders, chambers of commerce and retiree groups with each other and appropriate federal staff in one day is both a testament to the dedication of this administration to reach outside of Washington for ideas and answers, and the passion that front line federal employees have for fulfilling their respective agencies’ missions to help create an America Built to Last.

Robert Asaro-Angelo is the Northeast Regional Representative for Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis.

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Comments (1)

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  1. Gregg says:

    WOW ! i wish i was invited after all i am still part of the community.Because of what is stated that DOL talked about workers rights under the fail labor standards act wich is something i could have contributed to on that topic, correct Ms Solis?
    We could have called that OSHA investigator who slipped me inside information about how my former employer and one of the equipment manufacturers who supplies machines to my former employer lied to the federal government in our OSHA whistleblower investigation case.
    If we lied to the federal government and was proven with out a doubt that we lied would we be covered under the fair labor standards act?
    Would that OSHA investigator who risked his job be covered under the fair labor standard act because he obviously knew something was going on and i proved it with the information he supplied me ,not once but on 14 diffrent occasions that i time lined and even faxed me the same evidence that clearly shows the danger the public was in six times with cover sheets with names and all given to OSHA!!!
    Correct me if i’m wrong but i think you could see prison time for lieing to the federal government in an investigation?
    ( GOT MERIT ? )

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