On 9/11, I remember 32BJ

16 years ago, I rose from the McPherson Square Metro to walk the 3 blocks to my SEIU office at 1313 L Street NW, Washington, D.C.  It was a beautiful Tuesday morning, no humidity and the air was so crisp and clear.  There was an announcement in the subway, which was garbled like all the announcements in the Metro.  All I heard was “blah, blah, blah…Pentagon”.  As I walked I realized there was an unusual amount of horns honking, traffic congestion and people streaming out of office buildings.

The city was in a panic, and the subway was now closed.  When I got to my building, a colleague told me what was happening – the city was evacuating.  She offered me a ride home and we sat in traffic for an hour traveling only a few blocks.  Because she was trying desperately try to get home to Maryland, I got out and walked home to Capitol Hill.   

A few day later, I was sent to New York to assist SEIU 32BJ in navigating the federal, state and local government bureaucracy.  32BJ is the largest building services local union with membership of cleaners, property maintenance workers, doormen, security officers, building engineers, school and food service workers, and window cleaners.  24 32BJ members died on 9/11, one was on the tower hanging from the crane cleaning windows.

Why ME?  Yikes, what could I possibly do to help?  I was a Legislative Advocate (Lobbyist).  But my experience representing public employees and understanding the unemployment compensation system and other government programs would come in handy.

In the mist of such tragedy, the benefits of union membership were paramount to the 1200 plus workers who lost their livelihood.  The buildings were gone and so were their jobs. 

32BJ offices were only a few blocks away from the World Trade Center.  Those blocks were filled with pages and pictures, “have you seen this person”.  I am haunted by those pages.

Yet I was incredibly proud and privileged to have met and helped union members in the days following 9/11.  I was very worried some of them might be undocumented, but the World Trade Center was the premiere building in New York City.  The least senior janitor had worked in the building over 10 years.  They weren’t undocumented, but there were major language barriers to overcome.

I remember one woman who had been a school teacher in Eastern Europe, because her English was not very good, she worked as a cleaner.  She had been cleaning the same floor of the World Trade Center over 15 years.  She was my age, single, while educated but worked as a janitor.  Her English was still not very good after years of being a U.S. citizen, because as a cleaner she didn’t converse with co-workers every day, she worked alone.

The union officers and staff worked to get all the members onto unemployment as quickly as possible.  The NYC phone system had collapsed, because of the thousands of people who lost their jobs that day.  Also the unemployment system only offered translations services in Spanish and some Chinese.  32BJ workers were from all over the world, Eastern Europe, Africa, and Asia.  We helped them fill out paper applications giving each member personal assistance.

Each day a union meeting was held on the first floor of the union building.  32BJ leadership told all the displaced workers and their families the union was going to get everyone back to work.  In addition, the union extended health insurance and granted a supplement $100 unemployment benefit from their trust funds.  At those meetings workers cried and hugged each other, proud to be union members and treated as an extended family.

I was incredibly privileged to attend those meetings and see firsthand the joy expressed by workers who had experienced such loss and tragedy.  I feel guilty that week was one of the best of my career.

Each anniversary of 9/11, I remember the wonderful 32BJ members, staff and officers.  Why I am proud to have been a union member, and now retiree.  

2017 Summer’s end

Summer is coming to an end, 4 months in Westhampton has flown by.  While Houston, TX is suffering from horrible weather, Long Island is enjoying sunshine, but unusually cool temperatures.

I am preparing for my end of stay on Long Island, and looking forward to reuniting with Scout (aka Airstream). 

Alaska friends Diane and John will be collecting Scout in Sacramento, CA, on 9/5 with the very best help of dear friend Barb Hodgin.  I am grateful to River City Storage for their indoor care of Scout all summer.

Diane and John will head east, and I plan to meet them at Jordon Lake State Park, NC at the end of September. 

I am looking forward to my first visit to the Outer Banks, NC.  On to Myrtle Beach in November, and return for Thanksgiving with Mom, Stepfather Erv, and sister Becky partner Chuck, and extended family.

I don’t have any plans after Thanksgiving, and hope to make my way south, follow the sun and avoid horrible weather.

Most of all I am looking forward to reuniting with Scout, and the Road2Reinvention.

How Many Jobs in a Lieftime of Work?

The other day I heard a story about work lives.  Our parents, and their parents likely worked for a single or possibly a couple of employers for the majority of their lives.  No surprise, today people change jobs more often. 

It is projected that millennials will have more than 30 jobs in their lifetimes.  I thought I might make 30, I came pretty close.  I started working when I was in High School, after-school and summers.  I still have a few jobs on my Bucket List.  Last year I worked for the holidays at an Ace Hardware Store.  While I didn’t work in the hardware department (my dream) it was fun none-the-less.  But anything can be fun when you know it isn’t your future.   My next dream job is driving a beer cart on a golf course.  Or as a full-time RVer, I might end up at a campground for an extended period welcoming campers.  There are lots of part-time opportunities out there.  

I have been incredibly privileged to have interesting, fun, and horrible jobs.  When I became a Director at a staff retreat I thought it might be fun to ask staff what was their weirdest, fun or most interesting job.  I thought driving false teeth around might win the day.  NAUGHT. My friend Steve, won the day by telling us he taught women’s reproductive health and delivered babies.  Yikes!  Who could beat that?  I love Steve.

I worked as a starter at an Anchorage Municipal golf course.  Russian Jack Park is really a cross-country ski park, but for the 3 months of summer it masquerades as a golf course.   Years later I learned to play golf, and fell in love with the game.  Our family dog Allie, loved that job.  She accompanied me daily and sat in the sack, and at 9:00 p.m. (remember this was Alaska and was daylight until midnight) I drove a Cushman 3-wheel vehicle to pick-up the flags on the 9-hole course.  Allie, would run along and love all the balls falling from the heavens.

Another favorite job was working at a fabric store and later a book store.  Although I left most of my earnings at the store, buying fabric and books.  I still love fabric and books.

I have been privileged to have fallen into very interesting, full-filling, challenging and most of all stressful jobs.  

Ombudsman Investigator, Court Appointed Master, Legislative Director, you may call me “MASTER”.  Amazing from someone who was an incredibly bad student who hated school.  Years later while sitting in the Dirksen Senate Office Building with fellow lobbyist killing time until our next meeting, we were comparing notes on education and careers.  My friends and colleagues had attended Ivy League schools, Harvard, Yale, Brown etc.   I was proud to say instead of  the Ivy League, I was chasing the Grateful Dead up and down the west coast, and attending the 5-night 1976 farewell concert at Winterland in San Fransisco.

Who would have thought I would be lobbying Congress on behalf or working people?  “What a Long Strange Trip it has Been”.

Here is a list of my jobs, both paid and unpaid.  Always jobs, never a career.

1. Golf Course Starter, Russian Jack Park, Anchorage Municipality.

2. Cashier at Fred Myers Department Store, Anchorage, AK (summer)

3. Sales clerk at Discount Fabrics on Spenard Rd, Anchorage, AK

4. Bookstore clerk

5. Lifeguard and swimming instructor, Anchorage, AK. 

6. Waitress at Mexican Restaurant in Santa Anna, CA

7. Courier dental lab, pick-up and delivery of false teeth. Anchorage, AK

8. Fleet Service Alaska Airlines, loading and off-loading food service and cleaning aircraft interior. 1st Union JOB.

9. Food Services at Deli in Wasilla, Alaska (summer)

10. Intern Anchorage Municipal Ombudsman

11. Investigator, State of Alaska Ombudsman

12. Field Representative, Alaska Public Employees Association, Anchorage, AK

13. Master, Appointed by Superior Court Judge to oversee terms and conditions of incarceration in the Alaska Adult Prison System.

14. Business Agent, Alaska State Employees Association, AFSCME, AFL-CIO

15. Field Representative, Nevada State Employees Association, AFSCME, Carson City, NV

16. President Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN) (unpaid)

17. Northern Coordinator Labor 98, AFL-CIO, Reno, NV

18. Secretary/Treasurer Northern Nevada Central Labor Council, Reno, NV (unpaid)

19. Legislative Representative, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Washington, D.C.

20. Legislative Representative, AFL-CIO

21. Director of Legislation, SEIU

22. Consultant, Washington, D.C.

23. Legislation and Policy Director, WGA, West, Los Angeles, CA

24. Legislation Director, Social Security Works, Washington, D.C.

25. Sales Representative, Union Plus, Washington, D.C.

26. Legislative Consultant, Washington, D.C.

27. Vice President Amalgamated Bank, Washington, D.C.

28. Legislative Representative United Steel Workers (USW) Washington, D.C.

RETIRED!

My working life chapter is closed, but my trip is ongoing.

WHY I HATE SPORTS CARS

One of my favorite movies is Two for the Road, staring Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney.  The film follows a couple over Europe as young lovers, honeymooners, parents, and finally successful but not necessarily happily married.   Who doesn’t love Audrey Hepburn?  There is a restaurant scene in the film where Finney and Hepburn comment on a couple eating dinner in silence.  Their analysis is “married people” no longer talk to one another.

In 1995, I rode as a passenger in the brand new MG Spitfire, with my boyfriend Sam.  He had purchased the sports car in London and we drove to Scotland and Wales, boarded the ferry in Dover and crossed the English Channel.  Camped in a public campground in Paris (no kidding).  Saw that stupid auto race in Monaco.  Traveled through Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Holland.  We were both students spending our days sketching.  We stayed in cheap hotels, and hostels, and we camped in a tent.  I have hated sports cars ever since, and I was never fond of tents.  

The day we picked up the car I told Sam, I want my backpack on top of all the gear, so I could walk away and not listen to the shouting and recriminations should there be an accident.  Cramming all our gear compete with sleeping bags and tent, into the incredibly small trunk and tiny space behind the seats was never fun.  

Years later another friend Bill bought a really stupid Mazda Miata.  Bill was a great golfer, but he couldn’t even get one set of clubs in the trunk.   We drove to the golf course with both set of clubs between my legs in the passenger seat.  Bill was not a practical sort of fellow.  

Sam was in his 20s, Bill was in his late 60s.  What is it with men and sports cars?  I also hate motorcycles, but will leave that for another blog post.

Driving with the top down, wind in your hair and no storage space is not my dream — more like a nightmare.  I like to have a bed, a toilet, kitchen, closet and storage.  Not a lot, but enough for comfort.  That is why an Airstream is my idea of heaven.  I even dream of moving from my 19 foot to a 20ft!  One foot can make a huge difference in an Airstream. Check out the floor plan of the 20 foot Flying Cloud, look at ALL that amazing kitchen counter space  Now that is a dream!

Kitchen counter vs. male sexual organ?  I will take the counter space.

No PERMANENT ADDRESS. Tips for Insurance and voting.

The definition of a banker is: “They give you an umbrella when the sun is shining, and take it away when it begins to rain.”  I think this also may describe insurance.  I have no permanent address and 3 vehicles.  A 2005 Jeep Cherokee registered in Washington, D.C.  My former permanent address.  A 2010 Toyota Prius purchased in Florida.   Scout, my 2008 Airstream purchased on EBay in Texas.  The Prius is in New York, the Jeep and Airstream are in California.

Since I don’t live in any of those states, talking to insurance representatives, you would have thought this was a unique situation.  I got the distinct feeling of the umbrella being jerked from my hand, when I was explaining this to GEICO.  

In June, I registered the Airstream in North Carolina using my sister Becky’s address, but I can’t register the Jeep until it arrives in NC in October, because NC requires a vehicle inspection.  I got a NC driver’s license, and register to vote, while I was registering Scout.  I registered the Prius in New York, and got a New York driver’s license so I could get a Suffolk County Resident’s Green Key Card, for golf discounts at the county course.  Why not registered to vote since I was here?  I suspect I am still registered to vote in D.C. where lived until June 2016.  I was in Florida for the 2016 election and voted for Hilary, because I was living there temporarily, housesitting.

Yes Donald, it is very easy to register to vote in multiple states as a U.S.citizen.  Like your family and Advisor Bannon. However, I have no intention of voting in all of them.  Lots of people have multiple houses and addresses – winter and summer homes.  But what happens when you have no permanent address?   Thank goodness for my family and friends who are forwarding my mail and letting me use their addresses.

Many full-time RVers register their rigs in South Dakota, apparently, it is “really” easy to register vehicles there.  Also, there is a mailboxes outfit in SD or Good Sam many RVers use to forward mail.  The US Postal Service charges $20 a week, but that service won’t work for RVers like me, because we are moving from place to place.  While I love the U.S. Postal Service, I am thankful for electronic banking and bill pay.

As for insurance, I saved (or will save) a bunch of money registering in NC, but not with GEICO.  Florida, TX or NY are expensive insurance states.  The rates are super cheap in NC.  By switching my Airstream policy to NC the premiums are paid in full until December and they even refunded me some money.  However, to get the full value of the Airstream, if it were to get wrecked, I need a full replacement value RV policy, which GEICO doesn’t offer. 

What is a 2008 Airstream worth?  I wasn’t going to leave it to any insurance company to determine value, so based on the bill of sale, I will get what I paid for Scout.  Goodbye GEICO and hello Progressive.  Unlike those box type travel trailers, Airstreams retain their value.  Why Airstreams costs more up-front, but you are more likely to get your money back when you sell.  Just look at EBay and what used Airstreams go for, compared to other RVs.

As for registering to vote in multiple states, my friend John Lindback (recently retired) helped create ERIC, Electronic Registration Information Center.  ERIC offers state election officials cross matching of voter records to stop duplicate voter registration and other errors such as death of the voter using modern database matching.  GOP Florida Governor Rick Scott refuses to pay the $100,000 to participate, so stay tune for more FL voter problems.   The GOP is the party always screaming about voter fraud, so why won’t GOP Governor Scott enroll Florida?  Maybe he wants to be able to dispute any future election results?  Or, allow Trump advisor Bannon to vote twice?  Two good reasons to not live or vote in Florida, I am certain there are many more.