Yesterday, after 12 weeks of being on strike, I went back to work. Actually, I went in on Sunday for half a day. HR had called on Saturday informing me that I was going to act as the head of my department until the new guy comes towards the end of November, and that I was invited to attend a managers/supervisors meeting on Sunday that gave direction on what the priorities are and how to prepare for opening to the public.

The meeting was professionally conducted, but the tone with which management spoke was subdued, quiet, even contrite, if I may say so. A few people returning to work presented themselves neutrally or with some excitement to get back to work, but most others wore grim, black expressions on their faces, smouldering silently. The room was thick with tension and distrust.

I suppose this state of things is only natural given how long the strike went on for and all the negative effects that came out from that. There is a lot of healing needed for employer-employee relations, and even among union members. Last Friday, when I learned that my union ratified the 2nd deal, I burst into tears, feeling absolutely conflicted about going back to work and letting the full impact of feeling helpless hit me in a way that I had managed to avoid the past three months.

Here are some things I learned while being on a lengthy strike:

  • it is undignifying NOT to be able to work. After two weeks into it, my sense of worth and purpose became threatened in a way I had not expected. While I like my job a lot, I thought I had a pretty good handle on not letting my life revolve around my work. But the strike revealed to me that a good part of myself needs to be productive and to know that I am contributing to society in some way.
  • people are incredibly generous and resilient in a time of trial. The members of my union showed me this by the way we shared resources, encouraged each other on the picket line, and participated in creative, community-building activities while on strike duty. I got to know a lot of my co-workers more personally while we picketed together. I felt very blessed by their openness to me to being known.
  • I have options with what to do with my life. Prior to the strike, I had gotten into a comfortable (and in hindsight, unfulfilling) rut in the routine of my life. There have been some things I have been wanting to pursue (like go back to school) but have not had the courage to make the necessary and radical changes in my life to really pursue them.
  • I can handle the stress and discomfort of living on very limited financial means. I’m not saying that I enjoy going into debt or anything sadistic like that, but I did learn to live on very little and came to appreciate the generosity of my family and close friends. God provided the necessities, just at the right time. But having said all that, I really hate being in debt. I still can’t believe that I’ve lost a quarter of my wages this year.
  • I am still marketable.
  • I can still give, even if I have very little.
  • How to increase and decrease in knitting.
  • That many of my co-workers love to play Scrabble and play it very well.

Okay, that’s all for now. I could go on.