Being Part of the White House Summit on Working FamiliesJune 30, 2014
By Ellen Bravo
I was so honored to be part of the program at the White House Summit on Working Families. It was pretty cool to speak to the whole audience right after President Obama. I was especially proud to lift up some of the experts in the room who might otherwise have been overlooked – leaders like Arlyssa Heard, Rhiannon Broschat, Shelby Ramirez, and Melissa Bravo, all examples of workers who’ve lost vital pay or a job from being a good parent or good child to their parents.
They were among dozens of activists Family Values @ Work brought to the Summit from all across the country. I talked with people whose stories I knew but had never met, and others I’d met before but never heard their experiences with these issues. They included business owners whose values and business sense and often their personal lives had led them to be champions for paid sick days and paid family leave.
Our delegation included people who’d lost a child, whose partner had to go to work with pneumonia, same-sex couples who fall through the cracks, the child of immigrant workers with no paid sick days, a woman whose boss would not give her leave when her youngest son had leukemia and the hospital was five and a half hours away.
Over and over they said, “No parent, no person, should be in that situation.” They’d come to the Summit, they said, to make sure that political leaders “hear these stories, see our faces, make the changes we need.” As one woman put it, “Our tears are over. We have to act. We have to change Congress.”
The day after the Summit, I went to the NBC studio in Washington, DC for an appearance on the Ronin Farrow show. When I walked in, the receptionist was watching a video of my Summit speech. “The people you were talking about – where are they from?” she asked.
I started listing the cities they live in – Detroit, Chicago, Denver, Raleigh, NC. The receptionist’s jaw dropped. “I meant what country are they from,” she said. “Do you mean this happened in the United States?”
Yes, the United States of America in 2014 is failing its families. But the movement and commitment exhibited at this Summit made clear that local fights are leading the way to change this for all.