Sharing RC in My Tenants Union and Workplace

Our statewide rent-control initiative didn’t pass in the November election. Soon after the election, I received an e-mail from K—, a Co-Counselor active in the Northeast Los Angeles Tenants Union local that I’ve been participating in. K— hasn’t been active in our RC Community for a few years but respects­ RC and our work. She proposed offering a “healing space” for the activists in the local who had worked so hard on the campaign and she suggested we include Co-Counseling. She agreed not to call it RC but rather “peer counseling” and also agreed that her and my relationship would remain a Co-Counseling one as we did this naturalized RC outreach project together.

About fifteen people attended the meeting, and it was interpreted into English and Spanish. When K— passed it over to me, I shared some basic ideas about taking turns listening and how emotional release can make us more effective as activists. Then each person had a two-minute turn with me acting as counselor. One woman who works cleaning houses said that she didn’t want to speak. But when I asked her how her day had been, she started crying. People listened well, and she cried for her whole two minutes. During her turn, the woman next to her started crying. Afterward one of the activists said, “This is so rare and so important.” At the end of the meeting some of the people spontaneously appreciated what we had done. There was a sense that more of it needed to happen.

At work, my dish-room coworker E— had expressed an interest in learning RC. Several years earlier I had written a summary of The Human Side of Human Beings, thinking that a lot of people would more likely read a few sentences than a few pages. I decided to e-mail him a few chapter summaries each week, and after about ten chapters, he wanted to read the book. When I gave him a copy, he looked through it and said, “I think I’m going to really get into this [get interested in this].” It has helped that sometimes at work I think of something that makes him laugh and it seems that he can tell [perceive] that I’m thinking about him in some hard places.

Once a year at work we have an employee survey in which we answer multiple-choice questions about our workplace and jobs and sometimes get to write our own thoughts. When this year’s results came out, our new president and CEO [Chief Executive Officer] sent all of us e-mails asking for our ideas about the issues that had been raised in the survey. I decided to use it as an opportunity to spread a little RC.

I wrote about taking turns listening at all levels of the organization, developing relationships and situations in which employees feel comfortable expressing themselves, and reducing the workloads of the managers and supervisors so that they would have time to initiate these kinds of engagement. (Reducing our workloads as workers would come later.) The president wrote me back and said that we would be working on all of those ideas. A few days later, I was walking by our department manager in the kitchen and she said, “Victor! You write very well!” (The president had sent her a copy.) Then one of our supervisors and the Executive Chef said that they had read it. They all had good things to say about it, including how good it was that an employee (a dishwasher) was putting his thoughts out there in the hospital. I had been a little nervous about what would happen and was waiting to see what was next. Then my message was read to meetings of my coworkers, and they responded supportively and gave examples of what I was saying. So I had a few good Co-Counseling sessions on being visible at work.

Victor Nicassio

Los Angeles, California, USA


Last modified: 2019-05-10 19:12:08+00