Politics & voting & run-ins with the Secret Service, OH MY!
In today’s pre-election episode, Karen & Katie talk with the incredible Tamara Lefcowitz & Randie Pearson, two members of the United Steelworkers Union, about the ‘batlight tour’ that has been sweeping the nation. Ever since September, Tamara, Randie & two other female Union members have been partaking in a road show where they shine massive ‘Biden Harris 2020’ lights onto buildings. Their effort gained massive attention in mid-October when a light was seen projected onto Chicago’s Trump Tower, above the TRUMP sign (Twitter blew up within minutes).
Tamara & Randie offer a behind-the-scenes look at the ‘batlight tour’, explain their harrowing run-ins with the Secret Service, & offer advice on how to stay in politics well after Election Day.
Resources from today’s episode: USW Bat Light on Twitter @USWBat; Tamara Lefcowitz on Twitter @TLefcowitz; Randie Pearson on Twitter @RandiePearson; Want to talk with your government official? Call the United States Capitol switchboard: 202-224-3121; Looking to be a poll worker? Check out Power the Polls; Check out the Doomscrolling Reminder Lady on Twitter @karenkho
Follow Of Course I’m Not Ok: An Audio Project on Twitter & Instagram, and email us with questions/comments/concerns at firstname.lastname@example.org. This episode is sponsored by Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast.
Katie: Hi, I’m Katie Morrell and I am a writer and creative living in Bend, Oregon.
Karen: And I’m Karen Hawkins. I’m the founder of Rebellious Magazine for Women and co-editor in chief of the Chicago Reader.
Katie: You are listening to Of Course I’m Not Okay: The Podcast. Join us as we talk about mental health, coping with quarantine, and creativity.
Karen: For some of our episodes, we’ll chat with writers and creatives to get their take. Thank you for joining us on this journey.
Katie: Hi Karen. It’s so nice to see you.
Karen: Katie, always good to see you.
Katie: It is, for people who are listening on the day that this comes out: It is November 2nd and tomorrow is Election Day. So, we are recording this a few days early, but I will tell you that I woke up at 2:30 in the morning and have not slept since. So that’s how I’m doing. How are you doing?
Karen: Ooh. So I did sleep last night, but I will tell you that, and I know this sounds very strange but so, the local public television station I’ve been on like twice now. I was on live television, which was excruciatingly stressful. And then I was on a series that they stream on YouTube, like, and the series they stream on YouTube is like black voices, community voices, something, something it’s amazing. I was on a panel with people talking about the news of the day. Right before I went on, I’m talking right before I went on, [Amy Comey] Barrett happened. And I’m scrolling Twitter and I start crying and I realized that I’m going to be thankfully not on live television, but on YouTube with red eyes probably looking high.
Katie: Oh, Karen!
Karen: Oh my God. I was so freaked out. And I was like, I just gotta, I can’t.
Katie: Oh my gosh.
Karen: So that was Monday. I feel like I’ve recovered only because so much has happened. I mean, that was a year and a half ago. Monday was a year and half ago.
Katie: Exactly. I’ve gained, I’ve at least aged seven years since Monday. The Amy Coney Barrett thing, Like really though, like that, That was, yeah. I mean that must’ve been so hard for you to be on television.
Katie: Or YouTube, even whatever.
Karen: I know. I unfortunately forgot about it briefly because one of the things about the show that’s so stressful is that it’s a news talk show, and they have all these topics and the host is like, beautiful and very generous and she’s wonderful. I love her, but she’s like rapid fire kind of asking you questions about things. And it’s just like, ‘Oh God.’ It’s not a news quiz [show] but when you’re on with reporters who are in this stuff everyday, rattling off statistics and things, it’s just like, ‘So yeah, we had a staff meeting today.’ You know, it’s just so stressful.
Katie: My gosh, that sounds so stressful. But Bravo for pulling it out, like, that’s amazing. I mean, seriously.
Karen: That’s very flattering.
Katie: I don’t know how I would’ve done it. Like it’s interesting though, that you can compartmentalize when it’s like, you have to be so in the moment. You have to just like, ‘Just shove! Just shove down all that stress about the fucking Supreme Court!’ Ugh, yeah. I know. I mean, it’s tough. I mean, I will say that I’m not one to do drugs. But I, not that anyone who does drugs is listening, no judgment. I think, I don’t know if that’s weird. But anyway, the other day, the moving stress continues. We were, my husband Tyler and I were assembling a very complicated bookshelf that actually, if anyone’s looking for our photos on Instagram, you will be able to see behind me. It has eight shelves and it’s like, geometric. It looks really cool online. It looks cool in person too, but it took a tremendously long period of time to make. Anyway. And so Tyler and I were building it on Sunday and 17 swear words in, he went downstairs and grabbed a few weed gummies that he had purchased years ago, like years ago. I mean, we, I don’t even think I’d ever had-,
Katie: Like, I think they’re definitely expired. I don’t even know. Anyway. And so I forgot we even had them and I took a full one and I was like, ‘Oh, I don’t even feel anything. This is nothing. I’m totally fine.’ 90 minutes later, Karen, my legs stopped working. Like full stop. Like I just
Katie: I was done. I was. The next order of business after our bookshelf was, I was going to cut Tyler’s hair in the garage.
Katie: Cause that’s what I’m doing now with quarantine. And, I’m not that good, but I was like, I can’t. And the sentence of, ‘I can’t cut your hair’ was interrupted by four fits of laughter. So anyway, I don’t know why I’m telling you this story, but this is what happened this weekend.
Karen: I mean, I. Have I, have I on this podcast told my – Oh my, I hope my mother doesn’t listen to this – my medical card story?
Katie: Oh God, no. Tell me.
Karen: I’m just going to say, if you are in the state of Illinois, I know we have recreational cannabis, it’s now legal. However, you should still get a medical card because it’s cheaper to buy.
Karen: You get dibs on the supply, which is very limited. And, I shit you not. I talked to a doctor on the phone for three minutes and three seconds before he approves my medical card.
Katie: What? Wow.
Karen: Just saying.
Katie: I mean, that’s an endorsement right there.
Karen: I mean, the conversation was hilarious cause we were just shooting the shit and he was like, ‘What, what’s going on?’ And I said, you know, I’m feeling really anxious. There’s so much going on in the world. And he’s like, ‘that’s what everybody’s saying. All right. Have a good day kid. Talk to you later.’ I mean that was like literally the whole conversation. So worth it to get a medical card. I understand the rage around how difficult it was for people to get medical cards. I have a dear friend who went through cancer treatment who still hasn’t, was never able to get a medical card. This was years ago. It’s disgusting. The fact that my just-stressed-out-ass was able to get one like immediately is sad. However, and I don’t want to take the supply away from people who have medical conditions, but I’m just saying my anxiety is real. I am very glad I have a medical card.
Karen: It’s not hard to do in Illinois right now.
Katie: That’s really good to know. Illinois medical cards, just three minutes. You’re three minutes away from getting your Illinois medical card basically, as you’re listening. Hang up and then call your doctor.
Karen: The whole thing took maybe an hour, like the process of going on this dispensary website. Oh, medical card. Oh, I wonder if I should do it? Hour tops, the forms, all of it.
Katie: I will say that, as it relates to anxiety, which is kind of something that I experienced on a heightened level often, I will say that the eight hours – I mean it felt like eight, it was probably something like five – but that I was high as a kite. I had none of that. I mean, really truly, like it was kind of, it was as if like someone took a splinter out of my heart or something like, that’s a really-
Katie: Dramatic thing to say.
Katie: But that’s kind of how anxiety feels sometimes. And it was like, ‘Oh, that’s not there. Okay, cool.’ Is that how you feel? Or I don’t know. Is that normal?
Karen: I think it’s normal. I feel like for me, I just did a virtual conference and was staring at my computer for 11 hours a day for three days in a row after working a full work week. And my shoulders were just like, ‘Yeah no fuck you.’ And I didn’t have the splinter in the heart, but I had this feeling that like, ‘Oh my God, thank God my shoulders don’t hurt anymore. Oh wait. I can’t feel anything.’ That’s amazing.
Karen: Okay, great.
Katie: Right. You don’t really feel anything. I’m like, ‘Am I paranoid? I don’t think I’m paranoid. Maybe I’m paranoid about being paranoid, but I’m not paranoid.’ I don’t know. I might cut that. Instead I don’t feel anything, including my legs.
Katie: Ah. Weed gummies, but on a totally different topic. We just finished this unbelievable interview with these two rock star badasses is from the United Steelworkers Union. These two women were so unbelievable. Tamara Lefkowitz and Randie Pearson. They were so nice to even give us their time. They’re basically two of the four women who are behind the Bat Light Tour that is sweeping the nation right now.
Karen: I don’t want to give away too much of who they are and what they’re about. But if you are in Chicago, and you have been paying attention to social media in the last couple of weeks, yes that light above Trump’s name on Trump Tower was real. And yes, these women were responsible. I just, they’re the real MVPs of this year.
Katie: I mean, they’re just renegades. Like they’re incredible. And also a lot of the things that they went through and that they experienced during this. I’m not going to give anything away either, but Whoa. Stay tuned. I mean, keep listening because their stories are, as you said, worthy of a movie script at some point.
Karen: Absolutely. Enjoy.
Katie: Okay everybody. Thank you so much for tuning in. We are honored and so excited to talk with two members of the United Steelworkers Union, Tamara Lefkowitz and Randie Pearson. Welcome to the show.
Tamara: Thank you for having us.
Karen: I have to say, not to fangirl, y’all are my personal heroes right now. And you are the personal heroes of almost every Chicagoan I interact with. I just want you to know that. We’ll get into why, but I just want to say you’re my heroes.
Randie: We, we feel the love. We really do. Chicago was so hospitable to us.
Tamara: Yeah. Our time in Chicago was not long, but it [was] extremely effective in getting our message out to the world of how the steelworkers feel about the election.
Katie: Right. I mean, it’s so interesting. Okay. So for people who are not familiar with the bad-assery of the two of you, I would love to kind of go a little bit, like let’s rewind just a touch for people who don’t know. So about, I guess it was like in mid-September, a press release came out from the United Steelworkers Union talking about something called a Bat Light Tour. And in that, in that press release, it was kind of described how, you know, there were going to be, they were going to be lights that actually said-, it said Biden/Harris, right? 2020?
Tamara: It says Biden/Harris, and below it, it has the United Steelworkers logo on it. It says United Steelworkers above that. And we also have another bat light image that we project that says Make a plan to vote. And it also has the steelworkers logo on it. So.
Tamara: We use both of those messages.
Katie: That’s awesome. And so in the press release, though, it just said that you were going to go to a few states. Like it was kind of, I mean, it sounded really cool that you were going to project this beautiful light to kind of raise awareness for how the United SteelWorkers Union felt about this election and kind of just gain visibility on Make a plan to vote. But I would say, well, I guess it was like in mid-October when things started blowing up. I mean. I mean, Karen, you’re the one who told me about this originally. Please, you can go ahead because this is, it’s just so incredibly amazing what happened.
Karen: So you hinted at your very incredibly impactful presence in Chicago. So, so tell folks who, maybe the three people in Chicago around the world who haven’t seen this story, what are you doing with these bat lights? And, why?
Tamara: So, our union, like all unions, is involved in advocating for our members, for policy regulation, et cetera. Legislative work in addition to the advocacy that we do in streets and at the bargaining table for our members. And the pandemic has really gotten in the way of sort of our typical approach to organizing get-out-the vote-work, for candidates that support policies that protect steel worker jobs or advocate for public safety issues that the steelworkers care about. And so to give you a more concise answer, we’re using the bat light to get the message out directly to our membership and to the general public, to let them know the candidate that is best for steelworker members. And that’s Joe Biden.
And part of the reason that we’re taking this creative approach is that it’s not safe to go and knock on somebody’s door and have a one-on-one conversation about the issues that matter to them in their community, in their workplace. It’s just not safe for us to do that right now. And so this was sort of a way to bridge that gap of communication that everyone’s experiencing right now. Not just our union, but I’m proud to be part of a union that’s willing to try something new and do a project like this that’s so important. So the two of us are really only sort of half of the bat light crew that’s on the ground working an insane amount of hours driving all over this country. And the other two members of the ballet crew are Amber Miller and Katrina Fitzgerald. And the four of us make up sort of the bat crew of the United SteelWorkers Union.
Karen: I was talking to my partner and she was talking about this image that was blowing up her Twitter about Biden/Harris being projected above Trump’s name on the Trump Tower in downtown Chicago. She works for Photoshop and I was like, that’s fake, right? Like that, somebody. Somebody Photoshopped that. Clearly that’s not a real thing. I mean, that’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. It couldn’t possibly be true. I could not tell you the sheer joy at discovering that that actually happened. So can you tell us, how did you decide on Trump Tower? And I know y’all aren’t disclosing how exactly you did it, but, but tell us how you picked it as a spot for the bat light?
Randie: Well, the reality is we are looking for places, you know, that send a message and what better place to put it than right on the beginning, on the top of the other candidates building? It attracts attention. But I think more than that, it really, you know, when people start digging into it, as you guys said, you started dating back and looking at the stuff that we’ve done. As people start to do that, they really learn more about who we are as a union and why we are endorsing Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Which at the end of the day, it’s a light. And we know that, but it can be really powerful in getting a message and information out there.
Katie: Randie, that’s such a great point. I’d love to kind of talk a little bit about how you landed on this endorsement cause,
Randie: But to get back to why this candidate and how did we choose it? Our process also included over 200 town halls directly meeting with our members out in the field, answering questions. In some places for lower ticket races, having those candidates meet directly with our members and answer their questions. So this is not a bandwagon that we jumped onto. We’re here to support the candidate that cares about steel workers regardless of what party they’re a part of.
Randie: Tamara talked about the town halls. We take our endorsement of a candidate seriously. One of the things that we did prior to the town halls was we sent out candidate questionnaires to both of the candidates for president. We do that to all federal candidates, and the reality is, we got one back. So it’s really hard to make an endorsement for someone who doesn’t have the time to answer our questions about how they would be helpful in their next term. And you know, on a personal note, in these town halls, we talked about our core values as a union. Healthcare, the right to collectively bargain, domestic economic issues, retirement security, health and safety in the workplace. I know personally when I think about this election, those are the things regardless of where I work and who works next to me and our political persuasions, those are the things that we can agree about. You know, we deserve good retirement security. We deserve affordable healthcare. We have the right to collectively bargain and we really want to protect those things. And I think that’s, you know, that’s a real roundabout way to say we support the candidate that supports us.
Katie: What were you gonna say?
Karen: Like, edit just so it’s just what she said. That was fantastic.
Tamara: Yeah, give me a microphone, and I’ll give you a long-winded answer.
Karen: That’s amazing. Congratulations. You were both now cohosts of Of Course I’m Not Ok: The Podcast.
Katie: You are. Totally. You’re, you’re our backup.
Tamara: This isn’t a question. I’m not answering a question, but I just want to make a point while I have a forum to make one. I just wanted to play back a little experience that we had recently. You know, we were just in Chicago at Trump tower and you know, steps away from, from the wealth of that represents. And when we put our light up there and you know, it made a big splash. And then this week we went to Joe Biden’s childhood home in [Skirt] script and shined a light on that building. And if that doesn’t define the difference between those two candidates, more clearly than anything else. One guy grew up in a two or three bedroom house in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and the other one was born on third base and thought he hit a triple. So if you want to talk about who’s going to understand American workers, I would go with the guy who had to relocate out of Scranton because his dad lost his job. If there’s somebody who understands what it means, these jobs mean. It’s about dignity. It’s about our community. It just so clearly defines the difference to me of exactly who these people are.
Katie: Today’s episode of Of Course I’m Not Okay: The Podcast is brought to you by taking baths. This is something that I personally recommend to every human in the world.
Karen: Regularly, if you can swing it. And with water in a tub. Just you, some bubbles. It’s life-changing.
Katie: It’s truly life-changing, I’ve taken three baths in the past two days and now I’m addicted, and I’m a hundred percent okay going to bath, Bathers Anonymous. I don’t know. But anyway, baths. Thanks so much for your endorsement.
Karen: That’s such an amazing point. And one of the things that baffles me the most is that workers, frontline workers, think that Trump is looking out for them. I just don’t understand the disconnect that people have. I’m not asking y’all to explain it, but I really, I don’t understand this notion that like, ‘Oh, this billionaire gives a shit about me and my issues as a worker who puts my life on the line every day.’ Like, no, no, he made, he made the billions, alleged billions, off of your back and not paying people just like you. Completely baffling to me. I just want to say after all of that, I just hope y’all are prepared for people being like, ‘how do I get in this union?’ I mean, I know, people who are not in union labor are going to be like, ‘Uh, yeah no. I’m in.’
Karen: Hey Katie!
Katie: Hey, Karen!
Karen: Have you voted yet?
Katie: I have. I voted in a dropbox about a week ago. Have you voted yet?
Karen: I have not. I like to vote the day of. I kind of like the scene of it. The reporter in me just loves the drama of voting, even if I’m the only one in there. In fact, I like it when I’m the only one in there because my polling place has a lot of like old, super chatty, old black people who tell me things they shouldn’t tell me. So I’m going the day of. For those of you who have not early voted, go to vote.org to make sure that you’re registered to find out where your polling place is. Ballot Ready is an amazing resource that will tell you, that will give you a sample ballot with all of the races that will be on your ballot. If you live in Cook County in Chicago, I highly recommend Injustice Watch’s judges-ballot-help thing, because we have 60 judges on the ballot in Cook County. None of us know anything about any of them. Injustice Watch has done the homework for you. Vote.org, go to see if you’re registered and to get information you need to make informed choices.
Katie: I would love to know logistically how you’re pulling this off because originally, you know, the press release said you were going to go. I think it was, let’s see, I think it was to Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Michigan, which already, I mean, wow, like that’s a ton of place. But then I think one of the articles that I read said that you were going to like 25 to 30 cities to shine these beautiful lights. So can you talk about, are you just crisscrossing? Are you on like a perpetual road trip right now? Or is United like, you know, are you going on Delta flights everywhere? What’s actually happening in and are the two of you the ones that are shining these lights and how do you get the light bulbs? I just have so many logistical questions.
Randie: So I think logistically when we talk about area, you’re talking to us in a hotel room right now. So as we said before, we have day jobs on top of this. So we work our regular, you know, our regular jobs during the day from a hotel room. And I will point out as I said earlier, there are four of us. You know, we’re cognizant of spending our members’ money. So we are staying in one hotel room and this is voluntary money. So when we talk about the work that we’re doing, the work that we’re doing is funded by voluntary donations from our members to our PAC. These are people who recognize the importance of getting legislators elected who support us. And so they fund this work. So one of the questions we always hear is, you know, we don’t want our dues dollars used for that. It isn’t. This is totally voluntary. And so kind of back to the logistics, we’re in one hotel room with four girls, women. We’re driving, you know, hours upon hours upon hours a week. I would say, you know, flying right now is not the safest. Plus with all the equipment that we have, during a pandemic. We just made the decision that, you know, driving makes the most sense. And that gives us, I think anyways, or you can weigh in, but I think that gives us some leeway when we see different things that we want to shoot. When we get to a little town that, you know, definitely represents us and our ideals and our members are there. It allows us some leeway to really find neat things to shoot on in the community.
Tamara: We have been a roadshow for about six weeks now, either in my SUV or in a steelworker van that we’re able to borrow. But yeah, we’ve been crisscrossing half of America, as Randie mentioned. You know, during our day jobs during the day, we can all tether our laptops to our cell phones. A lot of us are, I mean, well really the entire team. You know, we all come out of doing this volunteer work for the union anyway. So we’re used to working in the field, we’re used to working on the road. That’s sort of part of the deal, right, with the work that we do. Whether that’s organizing, or, you know, running a campaign somewhere or political work, our advocacy for legislative initiatives, whatever that might be. As Randie said, we’re trying to keep it lean. We’re sharing hotel rooms, cooking our own food and a lot of hotels. And, um, yeah, one bathroom.
Karen: Women are so resourceful. You know, you give us one hotel room. Look at what you’re doing. The four of you on the road in an SUV or a van. I mean, look at what you’re making happen. Like, come on. I would vote for you. I want you to run for something.
Tamara: Well, that’s awesome to hear. It’s funny that you said that though, because we’ve had this conversation amongst ourselves as well. I’m really proud of the fact that this project at the end of the day, we’re using a spotlight. There’s no secret sauce here. We have a big powerful spotlight. We put a sign on the front of it and we’ve been going around shining it on stuff, using I-phones and free editing apps and social media to work this campaign. And I’ll tell you what, it’s really like, it’s about imagination. As Randie puts it. She says, ‘Data, bitch.’ It’s about the data. Who are we reaching? How effective are we reaching them? What communities do we need to be in? What communities are our members? You know, what are the industries in these communities? And how are they going to be impacted by the policies that are currently being pushed under this administration? Or how have they already been? And Randie is the true brains behind that part of the operation. You know, we all sort of bring our own thing to the table. I’m good at talking to people. Very loudly. Randie’s good with the data and understanding the deep policy issues that we’re digging on. You know, we all bring our thing to the table, and I’ll tell you what, I don’t think anybody but a group of women could make this happen. And I’m really proud to be a part of it.
Karen: Today’s episode of Of Course I’m Not Okay: The Podcast is brought to you by Rebellious Magazine. No, no, I know you’ve never heard of it. It’s okay. It’s fine. Listen, it’s at rebelliousmagazine.com. It’s a feminist magazine. It was founded by a mouthy black lesbian. And if you give a fuck about mouthy black lesbians, you should read it and you should send us money. Rebelliousmagazine.com.
Katie: Don’t miss it, check it today.
Katie: Since you’ve been traveling for the past six weeks, can you share any anecdotes or fun stories that you know. It sounds like sometimes you’re putting these lights up at the most odd hours. I mean, maybe not odd, but early. Like 4 a.m. or something. I think I read somewhere that that’s something that’s common, but I would love to know, maybe some fun stories or people that you’ve run into or some positive things that have happened. I’m sure you have a book’s worth of anecdotes. So please share. I’d love to hear.
Tamara: So let me set the stage for you at Scranton, Pennsylvania. It’s the night of Joe Biden’s town hall, hosted I think by CNN. And it was, his town hall was held I believe in a parking lot of the baseball stadium. And, up behind it is a, you know, it’s an area that’s right next to the Pocono mountains., Scranton, Pennsylvania. And so behind where he is standing, behind his stage, is a whole mountain. Okay. A whole mountain right behind him. So we decided we were going to light it up, and get our message out there behind Joe Biden have it say, ‘Biden/Harris,’ ‘Make your plan to vote.’ Because I should mention also we have multiple projectors.
So we have the ability to project in multiple sites at the same time, which we sometimes do. We’re deciding to light up the mountain and Randie and Katrina did some scouting of good locations to do that. So that was also very successful. We went up the side of the mountain, we actually hiked down the part of the mountain. Pulled vehicles around and throw equipment over the edge to run the electricity, which we were running off of my SUV at the time, straight from the battery. So we’ve since upgraded our equipment, but that’s besides the point. I’m just trying to sort of set the stage here for what we went through to get these shots. And it ended up outstanding. We lit up a couple of a couple of office buildings. We lit up part of the mountain. We moved around a couple of different places and took some great photos. And then we thought the piece de resistance would be a photo of this logo, near the stage, like projected onto the ground.
Randie: And I’m just gonna interject. It was projected into the actual baseball field. So it was taking place at this parking lot next to, kind of behind the baseball field and our hotels sat right above the top of the ridge. And my room had a direct line shot to drop our image onto center field and be able to see the town hall going on in the background, which we thought was a perfect idea. And then.
Tamara: The secret service disagreed. So.
Karen: Oh no.
Tamara: Have you ever been on the business end of a sniper rifle?
Katie: Oh my gosh, that question right there. I’m just going to let that sit for a second.
Tamara: Just sit in that idea for a moment, the business end of a sniper hyper rifle. Because I’ll tell you another interesting tidbit about if you find yourself on the business end of a sniper rifle, and there’s a green light. That means that there’s a laser-focused on you. So they know where the bullet will land.
Katie: Okay. You’re serious. You’re being a hundred percent serious right now. Like this is.
Tamara: We’re being 100% serious. That green light was on her face.
Katie: Oh my God.
Tamara: And it was on my chest. We were on the sidewalk outside the hotel, but we could tell from her, like her room, the vantage point of her room is what we use to set up the shot to get the visual. But there’s, basically there is sort of like a bluff, sort of like an overlook right off the back.
Tamara: And like a sidewalk that runs the perimeter. And so we set up right on there and shot it down and were answered almost immediately with a green light. So, that’s how we found out that the business end of a sniper rifle looks like a bright green light. We also learned more about the security of a perimeter around a presidential candidate. We met actually a lot of extremely nice, professional, and understanding Secret Service agents who had a long conversation with each of us separately. Our photo is on some wall somewhere, but we’ve met a lot of law enforcement making our way across this country. And, in just about every single case, once we explained what we were doing and, you know, sort of openly showed, here’s what our equipment is. It’s not dangerous. To some, our equipment could, when it’s packed up, look like we’re trying to transport I don’t even know what. You know, some of the bags that we carry stuff up in that it keeps, like poles and tripods and everything. I don’t want anybody to think we have anything except for camera equipment and a light. But long story short, we’ve met a lot of folks across the country that were very interested in what we were up to. We haven’t been arrested yet. What we’re doing is legal. But we’ve gotten a handful of cease-and-desists.
So, but all-in-all, it’s been, it’s been a crazy adventure, but overwhelmingly positive receptions from every single place that we go. I’ve received dozens of private messages from folks. And, you know, we all share with each other. They brighten up our day when people send us messages that this work is giving them hope. Whether they’re in a union or not. I’ve had people say, it’s nice to see somebody just standing up and fighting back because we’ve been shouted at for four years, and humiliated and degraded by an administration that doesn’t consider the impact of their actions or their words. And I feel like we say a lot by just shining this light. We say a lot by saying very little, because the reality for us and our members in our union is that, you know, the reality is that this project undermines the message that Trump is trying to get out there. That blue collar Americans all support him. That industrial workers all support him, that we all think the same, that we’re not educated, that we don’t know what’s best for us. And we’re just going to buy his line of bullshit that he’s trying to sell everybody. And when you have a team of women steelworkers show up and shine a light right on the building with his name on it to say, ‘We’re not with you pal. You don’t represent us. You don’t represent the hardworking people of this union.’ I think it’s incredibly powerful and it really undermines the lie that he’s been propagating for four years.
Karen: Who’s going to play all in the movie? Cause what you just described is a scene in a movie. I mean, I’m thinking Reese Witherspoon? For you, I’m thinking?
Katie: Yeah, maybe Jennifer Gardner.
Tamara: Wow. Wow. You’re really upselling this. People are gonna be so disappointed when they click on the pictures. Yeah I’m not sure what you’re expecting but.
Katie: I think it’s just so amazing. I mean, I just, the sniper rifle thing. Yeah, that’s. I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t know what was happening. Like, I wouldn’t know what to do about the perimeter of a presidential candidate either. I would have done the exact same thing. I mean, who knows, but Oh my gosh.
Tamara: Well, let me tell you, we learned a valuable lesson. And when we went to, we’ve been to a couple of locations now we’re secret service have been there, and they recognize us now. We’ve seen a couple of them moving around, and I mean.
Randie: There are some places where it’s better to ask for permission to ask for forgiveness, I will say if there’s sniper rifles involved, always, always ask for permission. Our mantra has been, ‘Mistakes were made, mistakes were made. We’ve learned from them, but mistakes were made.’
Karen: Today’s episode of Of Course I’m Not Okay: The Podcast is brought to you by the weed gummies that Katie and her husband had over the weekend.
Katie: They were really good. But don’t take an upper and a downer at the same time, just FYI. They cancel each other out. So Tyler didn’t experience anything, but if you take an upper, get ready to not use your legs for six hours.
Karen: It’s a valuable lesson. It’s both a sponsorship and a public service announcement all in one.
Katie: Yes. Thank you. Weed gummies.
Katie: This episode is coming out the day before the election. And so for people who haven’t voted, please go vote. But I guess, you know, your activism is so deeply inspiring because of something that you said earlier about how, you just have a spotlight. Like you’re doing this thing with, and you have such an impact and so many impressions just based on having a light. But I think for people who are listening to this and thinking, ‘You know what, I really want to do something, but maybe I don’t have a lot of resources. Or maybe I don’t, I’m not in a union. Or maybe I’m just, I’m a person who wants to continue being engaged and involved in social justice issues and in the political sphere.’ I guess, for anyone who’s listening, part of any background, what kind of advice would you give them on just how to even go about doing something like that? Because a lot of people are really overwhelmed by that concept.
Randie: I think when we talk about activism and getting involved. So one of the things that you said was people may not have the means or the time and things like that. It costs nothing to be a good constituent. It costs nothing. The reality is on November 3rd, we’re going to elect a bunch of people whose sole job is to represent us in our government. That’s it. That’s what they get paid for. Right? And you know, we often use sort of the metaphor, ‘If you, if your child just got their license. When your 16 year old just gets their license, are you going to send them on a trip across the country without a map?’ Absolutely not. As a constituent, you need to be that map. So for instance, you know, when we talked to legislators and we talked to them, one of the things that they talk about is that they really lean on calls and emails and letters and petitions from their constituents to figure out, you know, take the temperature out the room. To see how people are feeling about different issues. So I would say number one, get to know, you know, on November 4th, know who got elected. If we can. We know there may be some offices that are waiting a little bit, right. But as soon as you know who’s out there representing you, all the way from the dog catcher, right? In some places to the president of the United States, knowing who those people are. Whether you voted for them or not, they want to hear from you and you have the right to have your voice heard.
I would say, you know, when we talk about the sort of advocacy that we’re doing, we’re looking at a presidential election. But you know, our senators and our representatives who sit in the U.S. Capitol, the president doesn’t do much without them. So figure out who your representative is, who your senators are and call their offices. Make sure that you’re doing more than just watching the television to get your information. Look, we all know, especially in this election, there’s all sorts of information in the media, on social media and newspapers. And I think right now it’s really hard for people to know what’s true and what’s not. What’s fake news, right? We’re all getting bombarded by that. So the day after the election where you’re looking at who the people are that represent you, start looking at what’s coming out in your local newspaper. What’s affecting you in your community? Because the reality is that’s where it starts. All politics are local, right? You need to know how your community is being affected by legislation. And if it’s not good, speak out. Tell someone that this doesn’t work for me all the way up to the House. The U.S. House of Representatives or the Senate. You know you have that right. So I have a number here.
So for all the listeners out there who are wondering, like, ‘How do I get in touch with these people? What can I do?’ I have a number here that y’all should write down. So everybody get a pen and a piece of paper. This is the number to the General Capitol Switchboard. So the number is (202) 224-3121. If you call that number, they’ll have you, based on your address, they’ll direct you to your representatives or your Senators. And look, have a conversation. It seems like a scary thing when we talk about it. I know the first time I did it, I didn’t like, it just seemed foreign, right? To call and tell people what you need, especially somebody in that kind of a position of power. The reality is you’re going to get their staffers, who frankly, are the ones that are helping them determine their policy positions. You’re having a conversation with somebody just like you. It’s their job to know what constituents feel, what they’re concerned with, you know. And make those phone calls. If something comes off, call and ask. If you don’t understand, if there’s an issue out there that you’re hearing about on the news, and it might not sound quite right, you don’t know, call this number and ask your representative to explain it to you. Ask their staff to explain it to you because that is their job. And again, at the end of the day, we are that roadmap, right? We are that roadmap for them, to tell them what they need to move on when it comes to legislation.
Karen: I love what you said. Also, this notion that you have access to these people. And I also want to encourage people. If you were a part of any kind of organization, it doesn’t have to be a union. Your mom’s group, your play dates. You can ask for meetings as a group with these folks when they’re in town. I don’t know if they’re doing Zoom town halls now or not. But I feel like especially aldermen in Chicago, especially state reps in this area, are really receptive to meeting with groups of people who are organized around a particular issue. So I love that message for people. I hope people really take that to heart
Karen: Today’s episode of Of Course I’m Not Okay: The Podcast is brought to you by Karen K Ho, otherwise known as the Doom-scrolling Reminder Lady on Twitter. If you are on Twitter, you absolutely should follow her because at least once a day, she will ask you if you’re doom-scrolling and tell you to stop. And it’s amazing. She’s @KarenKHo on Twitter. I find her an invaluable resource and it’s amazing how many times she has clocked me doom scrolling at like 3 a.m. I think she sets them now. She like, just time releases them, but it’s kind of uncanny. And I’m like, ‘No, Karen you’re right. I should go to bed.’
Katie: But last question I think for us is, how are the two of you spending Election Day? Like now that, you know, the day after this comes out, what are you going to be up to on November 4th?
Tamara: I signed up to be a poll worker in my community. So that’s how I’ll be spending on Election Day. And hopefully spending November 4th celebrating.
Randie: Yeah, you know, she mentioned signing up to be a poll worker. If you’re interested to sign up to be a poll worker, there’s a great nonpartisan group. You can look it up. It’s called Power the Polls. They may have some opportunities for you. So on Election Day, I am, I’m with my sister tomorrow here. I will also be working out at the polls doing that work. Just to drive it home. Just to drive it home.
Tamara: We can’t take anything for granted in this election. Everyone needs to keep their foot on the gas. All the way through.
Karen: I can’t think of a better way to end this. Thank y’all so much. This was such a delight. We love having guests on. Katie and I love talking to each other. We love having guests on. I mean, I’m still a huge fan. I’m even more of a fan.
Katie: You both are so amazing. Thank you so much for your time. I mean, this was just such a blast. I so thank you also for what you’re doing. I think it’s just the world is better for having the two of you in it. So thank you.
Randie: Thank you so much.
Tamara: Wow, thank you.