10 Things that Show You have been in the Labor Movement Too Long

Image1.  You remember using pagers and when your Organizing Director really needed you s/he would page you using 911 and you had to stop at a rest stop on the road to call him back.

2. You know how to use a map.

3. It seems like you know everyone AND their Ex-es

4. You remember union meetings so filled with smoke, you couldn’t see to the other side.

5. You still know how to organize a NLRB union election.

6. Your union has merged so many times, the name doesn’t make any sense.

7.  Grown people introduce you as the person who first trained them at the union.

8.  Your kids know all the words to “Union maid”. And when people ask you if you like “Which Side Are You On?” you ask which version.

9.  You think cursing in meetings is perfectly normal, work appropriate behavior.

10. You have whiskey at your desk in case of another black-out or for those rough negotiation sessions.

On the frontlines of climate catastrophe


pic by me

Balactasan, Aklan, pic by me

The Philippines is beautiful. I say this to remind myself because all the pictures of death and destruction make it hard to remember. The first time I visited the province of Aklan, our family’s ancestral lands, was when I was 19. It looked like paradise. Children jumping from the bridge into the crystal clear river. Palm trees and coconuts, mangos and pineapple, fresh bananas and coconut. It was also terribly poor and without much of a future for the next generation. Rice farming barely eked out a living. There was no electricity. The only carbon we burned was bio-mass-plants and trash to keep away the mosquitoes at night.

The last few days, our brooklyn household has been anxiously glued to the TV and the internet to get news from the Philippines. On twitter, we have been sharing satellite pictures of this super-typhoon, the most powerful storm to hit the planet,  threatening our families. We all stayed up all night, desperately looking for news from parts of the Philippines that have been wiped out and with no power and no cell phone.

Knowing the Philippines and knowing how we live in homes made of nipa and bamboo, we knew what being hit by the strongest typhoon in the history of the planet meant for the Philippines. The video and news of total destruction just confirmed what we all dreaded in our hearts.


My grandmother’s house – in Aklan, in 2000, gone now, my pic.

And we are exhausted, typhoon weary. Our family lost everything a few years ago, in 2008, when Typhoon Ondoy dumped so much rain, that our home was flooded by the nearby river. Our home had never been flooded before – we were 100 feet above the river. This time, many of our family lost their homes and roofs to the wind. How many more times can we raise money from our friends and neighbors, how many times can we send boxes of clothes and food? My family in Manila were flooded out just this year in August. What will happen to our country – will it just be wiped out to sea? The news and pictures coming from the Philippines is almost too much to bear. But we have no choice but to bear it for the sake of the dead and living. And I am angry. It is like our land is being stolen, because who can rebuild and rebuild again and again?

I will post next about the brave efforts of our Filipino representative at the UN climate talks in Warsaw Poland. For now, I end with a call, yes please donate and give money to relief efforts. But then – remember that many of those on the frontlines of the climate catastrophe can’t choose BUT YOU can choose to get on the frontline – fight the XL Pipeline, fight coal and big oil, demand a Just transition to renewable energy. Demand that industrialized nations help countries like the Philippines transition to renewable energy.

On my way home…subway sightings, disturbing, funny, very nyc.

Photo by dear daughter

Photo by dear daughter

Sights on the way home from work…

Man in suit, stops and kindly asks ,”how do you know where the train will stop?” I start to answer, then another young man leans in, interrupts and starts to answer too. We start debating the best way to get to stranger’s destination. Typical New Yorkers.

Now waiting for second train, the train that will take me to my stop. Walking behind twenty-somethings. Him, skinny jeans, baseball cap, her  – skinny jeans, small purse with gold chain slung across her body. She says I am hungry. He begins harranguing her, “don’t you tell me that now….” Subway train roars by, I just hear bits, “I TOLD you.” “Selfish.” She is silent, walking briskly, his mouth keeps moving, his words pushing her through the platform. I finally pass them, by this time she is squatting & covering her head, as he continues to berate her. Our train comes, I get on a different car.

Now I am on my final leg home. Man is sleeping on crowded, rush hour train.  I grab overhead bar over him, standing near his head. I Space out, make lists, dream about dinner. When I hear, “He’s got his hand down his pants.” I don’t WANT to look, but I have to. And yep, hand down pants, I was hoping for a scenario of an innocent and understandable itch DOWN THERE. It can happen to us all, right? right? but NO, he IS jacking-off. On my ride home. RIGHT below me. So I move. No one else does a thing.

Finally home, I walk a few block to pick up my kids. Watch man, on bike, texting with one hand, steering with another.