An out member of a local disability-advocacy agency was among a group of locals who recently met with President Obama and others at the White House to discuss strategies for getting long-term-unemployed Americans back into the workforce.
Southwest Philadelphia native Lynn Pecora has worked at Inglis House, which empowers those with disabilities to achieve their goals, for 15 years and has served as director of training and development in the human-resources department for the past 13.
On Jan. 31, Pecora was among 50 professionals from around the nation who were invited to participate in the jobs forum with Obama, commerce secretary Penny Pritzker and labor secretary Thomas E. Perez.
Obama mentioned the meeting in his State of the Union address days before, in unveiling a new $150-million hiring initiative aimed at the long-term-unemployed population.
Pecora, a Temple University graduate, said her employer is a member of Business Leaders United for Workforce Partnerships, which resulted in her invitation to the White House.
Pecora said Inglis had signed a best-practices agreement, where companies agree to look at their recruitment and hiring practices to help remove barriers and stigma associated with long gaps in employment.
“We were one of many businesses that signed that we would honor this,” she said.
More than 300 companies have taken the pledge.
The Ambler resident received an email invitation Jan. 25 and was immediately taken back by the White House letterhead.
“I was looking at it thinking, Was this for real? Did they really want to send this to me? It was a huge privilege,” she said, noting that she spent the week before the event doing as much research as possible. “I wanted to make sure I was as prepared as possible for supporting any dialogue that went on as a signer to the best-practices agreement and how it would benefit the nation as a whole,” she said.
Once at the White House, Pecora said, the event included forums with both policy-makers and hardworking Americans who had experienced unemployment.
“There were panels where the secretary of labor and secretary of commerce spoke and they each had a group of people who were talking about their struggles and, to me, that was very moving to hear these folks sharing their stories,” she said.
Although Pecora did not have the opportunity to meet personally with the president, she captured his remarks on video.
“They allowed us to take all the photos we wanted,” she said. “I have two three-minute videos of him speaking.”
Pecora said the energy was positive at the meeting, which she noted was not just focused on the government’s role in the issue, but also on the roles that employers can play in reducing stigma associated with long-term unemployment.
“When they say long-term unemployment, the 18-month period seems to be that critical point. The employer may not go further in reviewing a person’s skills and knowledge and that is overlooking a large group of folks who are talented and who had been pushed to the wayside because of that,” she said. “It is important that employers get beyond that.”
While LGBT issues were not the topic of the day, Pecora said it’s important that LGBT community members are involved in national discussions on workplace issues.
“Everyone needs to be employed and I am sure there is still stigma, but we are viable folks contributing everything everyone else would and we deserve the recognition as well,” she said. “We all deserve that same level of recognition of skills, knowledge and experiences.”