It’s labor day! This is a time to be out in the streets or at the beach. I am at home on day 6 of my last AC chemo cycle. Side effects are super real, and mine are keeping me indoors. The chemo is making me wildly sensitive to the sun, like even more than usual, I get a sunburn walking to the subway even with a giant umbrella and a hat and sunscreen everywhere. So I’m in my kitchen, working.
And I’ve done quite a bit of working over the summer. My body has been working for sure, even if in ways I don’t have much agency over. I was in a conference call with my fellow union officers on Thursday trying to figure out a response to a management request around the tenure density clause. My neulasta on-pro kicked in and started infusing–beep beep beeping, then clicking my meds in over the course of the conversation–a true multitasking moment as we parsed our options together and my bone marrow started going into overdrive. At the cellular level, I’ve been doing a lot, and getting a lot done to me. And we figured out our strategy, got ready for our meeting the next day. Working. Lots going on right now.
I don’t want the summer to pass as just an act of endurance of chemotherapy, even if that’s a lot of what it was. Many days passed when this was the only thing happening. Yesterday, for example. Getting to the end of the day. That was the entire plan and goal and it happened. I got to the end of it, came out into this morning. Hurrah.
We also filed so many grievances. I had so many lunches and phone calls. I’ve eaten a lot of matzo ball soup at the Junior’s on Flatbush. We met. We talked. All this in the face of a management that is relentless, a union leadership challenged by real differences in strategy and approach to the problems we confront. The work is hard. I was oriented by the international as a new local president, a weekend that included receipt of a gavel I have yet to use in a meeting and a surreal moment sitting up in the top row of the NYSUT conference hall, my bald head wrapped in a silk scarf, alarm ticking down to my next dose of Zofran, being told how important it will be to participate in the union’s breast cancer awareness walk this year.
We sent out my welcome back letter to the membership this morning. The emphasis is on the work we have to do together. From where I sit, that’s everything: getting together, building solidarity with each other, knowing that we will show up for each other as we define the moments where showing up is indeed what we need to do. Building power through face to face conversations. Labor intensive, the work worth doing.
The summer had other stuff in it for me too: a lunch at the Culinary Institute, a trip to Red Bank to see my friends’ documentary, many sort of random and inexplicable trips to outlet malls, a relatively-for-me spontaneous trip to Los Angeles to see friends and family, eating so well at the table of my beloved, best cancer care partner in the business. It hasn’t just been unremitting sunburns and nausea.
We also made it to the movies to see Sorry to Bother You. It was pretty soon after my surgery, getting up the subway stairs was so hard, I wept on the sidewalk. My body feels so much better now, what an unfathomable difference time makes. My favorite scene follows a belabored effort by the main character to expose the TRUTH! of corporate evil that ends in a big reveal on a popular game show. Corporate power: revealed! In response, the stock market jumps. So much in that moment for me, a reminder that we’re not going to beat this thing with the best articulated argument or the clearest memo. Much of what we would unveil is precisely what capital wants. It’s working, and the revelations are welcomed and embraced. It will take something else, coming together in numbers larger than theirs, and deploying those numbers in a campaign of pressure that we’ll have to figure out as we go along.
That’s on the docket for my fall, along with living through the rest of this.