A Week In The Life Of Jess Morales Rocketto, Political Director At National Domestic Workers Alliance
Between back-to-back conference calls, this movement leader finds time to escape with romance novels and Tiger King — and never misses her skin-care routine.
Name: Jess Morales Rocketto
Occupation: Political director, National Domestic Workers Alliance
Location: Washington, D.C.
Monday, March 30, 2020
Please note: Times are Eastern Time unless otherwise noted.
7:30 a.m. — Alarm goes off, I snooze.
8 a.m. — My morning routine involves getting dressed, hot water with lemon before coffee, and cuddling. I’m running late. I’m always running late.
9 a.m. — We go over our campaign plans with the policy, digital, and worker teams. I need to give feedback — coronavirus changes everything, even how to best advocate for people, and so this requires creativity!
10 a.m. — We have a team meeting. One of our folks had coronavirus and is now back for her first day of work! What a relief to have her back, safe, and getting better.
11 a.m. to 3 p.m. — Conference call retreat with the leadership of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. We all cry. This is tough, and what we are experiencing isn't even close to what domestic workers are experiencing. I have a job, I'm with my family, I can work from home, and I will probably be okay in this crisis, but I'm still terrified. What domestic workers are saying is really scary. Surveying over 10,000 of the folks we work with, we found that over 68% of them had lost 100% of their income. The devastation is only beginning, which is why we’re fighting so hard right now.
I definitely have to do that dance between “I am so hungry,” “Wow, I really have to pee,” “Am I hungry or just dehydrated?”, “Quick, run to the bathroom and make lunch and refill your water bottle in 10 minutes,” and “Oh, remember to wave hi to your husband!” Basic needs are still a thing, no matter how busy you are!
3 to 3:30 p.m. — Talk to a reporter.
3:30 to 4:30 p.m. — And now, for our COVID-19 daily standup — we’re in rapid-response mode!! We start every call discussing what we hear from workers, and it’s really grounding. We’re focused on our Coronavirus Care Fund, where we are trying to raise $4 million to give out one-time $400 emergency assistance to 10,000 workers. We’re REALLY close to our goal after just two weeks, so we talk about how to cross the finish line.
I end up with a variety of meetings right until 8 p.m., including on how to talk to employers about this crisis, voting rights, and a coalition call with dozens of other progressive groups who are working together to advocate for relief during COVID-19.
8 p.m. — Run downstairs to snag a beer for “happy hour” (a great saison!) and FaceTime one of my oldest, dearest friends and mentors. I haven't seen him in a few months, and it's great to spend some time with him and get his advice on what to do in this moment (none of us have any clue, and that's comforting). I love talking politics with him, but that kind of conversation feels more like fun and less like work than my actual day-to-day.
9 p.m. — Head downstairs to see my husband and sister, who is living with us during COVID-19. We’re each in a different room during the day, so I look forward to this time at night when we update each other on our goings-on. Very “Honey, I'm home!”
9:30 p.m. — We’re late to Tiger King, so we start that… I don't think I was quite ready for that after such a long day!
11:30 p.m. — I never miss my skin-care routine. (Then I Met You cleansers, Biologique Recherche P50, May Coop Raw Sauce as my toner, Peach & Lily Glass Skin Refining Serum, and Bobbi Brown moisturizer, in case you were wondering.) Beauty is my fun: My work is so serious that I find a lot of release from makeup and skin care — something that has no stakes and is just for me.
12 a.m. — Nite-nite!
Tuesday, March 31, 2020
7 a.m. — I wake up early and get right to work. I am NOT a morning person, but we're on day two of our retreat, and I have just a couple hours to try to squeeze in a day’s worth of work. I approve memos, answer emails (I have given up on having a timely inbox, we’re in a global pandemic!), and check in on loose ends I want to be sure are moving. I can really zero in when I get going, but I can’t always get into the “wired in” flow unless I am super-disciplined.
11 a.m. — Day two of retreat starts! I am giving a presentation about the 2020 electoral landscape post-COVID, and I’M REALLY EXCITED ABOUT IT. I'm generally enthusiastic, but sometimes you just feel really good about your work, and today I do!!!
3 p.m. — Call with a Virginia legislator about what we can do to help domestic workers and women of color in the state. Care In Action, where I'm an executive director, is very focused on Virginia post-2019, where we helped flip the state legislature blue. It's great to see that work bearing fruit in the legislature — electing champions who will fight for women of color when it matters is exactly what we’ve set out to do!
3:30 p.m. — I forgot to eat lunch and I haven't gone to the bathroom today, so getting right on that. One good thing about being cooped up at home is cooking healthy meals, but today I just nuke a frozen thing we have — thank you, Trader Joe’s! I take a bunch of calls while I do this, checking in with colleagues who need answers on a few things, calling staff in congressional offices about our priorities for the next COVID-19 package, and trying hard to answer emails. Our team does our work on WhatsApp since that's what many domestic workers use to communicate, so I try to get in the chats today and make sure I’m digitally present.
4:30 p.m. — Staff meeting! We give an all-staff update on COVID-19, and there are lots of questions and great feedback on what we’re hearing from workers all over the country.
6 p.m. — I helped organize a digital rally on Sunday, so we debrief. I commit to more work. (Why do I always commit to more work??)
7 p.m. — My friend Nelini, who organized the rally, calls to debrief the call (we can’t be the only ones who do that!), and we catch up. A super-unexpected, fun catch-up time with one of my favorite people in the world to scheme with!!
Wednesday, April 1, 2020
8 a.m. — I let myself sleep in a little :)
9 to 11 a.m. — Start “late” today, and this day is all about catch-up. I try to spend 15 minutes at the top of the day organizing myself, which makes me feel a little less frantic. Then, I spend the next two hours answering urgent requests and catching up on all the email I missed these last two days. In the middle of an emergency like COVID-19, that could be anything from “read this essential article” to “we’ve decided to run this big campaign,” so I feel some pressure to make sure I'm not missing out on weighing in on something important.
11:15 a.m. — COVID-19 daily stand-up! Today we’re talking about relief applications: How many people do we have, and have we moved money out the door? Getting relief to people really matters to us, so this is one of the most important areas of work right now.
12 p.m. — Lunch! Rice and beans is what I eat when I need sustenance and also have no time. My coworker starts our call 15 minutes late, so I have a second to make lunch!
12:15 to 1:45 p.m. — Series of calls about COVID-19 items that came up in our stand-up: This is the follow-up from that meeting to make sure we are nimble and responding as we should.
2 p.m. — And now, for our employer-response meeting: How can we make sure that employers pay their workers? How can we make sure workers know their rights?
3 to 3:15 p.m. — Our policy manager pesters me: Have I sent those emails to congressional offices yet about our policy demands for the next COVID-19 package? EEK, must do it quickly! We’re getting intel that the next package is moving quickly, so time is of the essence! It’s critical to make sure our workers, who make very little money and are often undocumented, are included in the federal relief packages, so there’s no such thing as too much outreach or too many reminders.
3:15 to 4 p.m. — Prep for strategy meeting to talk about our next steps on COVID-19 over the next few months. I'm lucky to work with a badass group of women of color who are so thoughtful and strategic. I’m excited about where we land, even though it means a lot of work. Big questions for me on the election include exactly how voting will work. Voting by mail is great, but we need something like “vote by mail plus” to accommodate people who can't vote via mail.
4:30 to 7:30 p.m. — I wish I could say I buckled down and did a bunch of work, but instead I responded to a bunch of one-off phone calls. My least favorite thing that happens during the work day! I need time to think! (I have no time to think!) I’m trying to carve out time for that this week because shifting your entire strategy as an organization and social movement is REALLY hard.
7:30 p.m. — I could work all night and not catch up, which is how I know that I should shut it down for the night. I warm up a frozen lasagna. (How does this take an hour?!)
9 p.m. — I'm so tired I can't even muster up enthusiasm for television.
10:30 p.m. — Go to bed but can't sleep. Try reading a book. Try pushing off the covers. Try meditation.
12 a.m. — Give up and read a romance novel until I fall asleep. Escapist literature is my most important coping mechanism during this time — god bless the romance authors.
Thursday, April 2, 2020
7 a.m. — Aaand I'm up, and I'm so behind I don't even bother to shower. My first call is at 9 a.m. and I don't stop until 9 p.m.
9 a.m. to 9 p.m. — 10 back-to-back conference calls in one day. I don’t remember much except that my little sister saved me with a matcha latte. This is one of those days when problems just pile on top of each other.
9 a.m. to 9 p.m. — 10 back-to-back conference calls in one day. I don't remember much except that my little sister saved me with a matcha latte.
9 p.m. — I join a virtual happy hour for just a few minutes and learn how to turn myself into a potato via a filter, which makes my entire week.
9:30 p.m. — Leftovers for dinner. Also, a pint of ice cream because it's that kind of day.
10 p.m. — Spend some time with my sister, husband, and pets. It's sort of astonishing how much we manage to stay out of each other's way during the day.
10:15 p.m. — I feel silly for going to bed this early, but I can barely put sentences together. Not every day in activism is easy, but this one might have kicked my ass completely and I need to finish the week strong. At least there’s tomorrow?
Friday, April 3, 2020
7 a.m. — Woken up to the dulcet tones of my cats throwing up. This is a day that calls for two cups of coffee! I need to really focus this morning so that I can try to end the day a little early.
9:30 a.m. — Our team has an optional a.m. stretch together, and I finally make the time to join. This is exactly the breather I needed, and I even get my little sister to join in. I feel connected to my coworkers and thankful for this stretch!
11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. — Conference calls! (Does everything really need to be a video?) Feeling fried, but we end with an exciting meeting that may result in a new partnership around COVID-19 that will make a really big difference to our workers. Crossing my fingers this works out!
5:30 p.m. — I missed a podcast interview at 2:30 p.m. and rescheduled it to now. This is for Georgetown University students, which is why I said yes, and they ask great questions. Talking to folks just getting started on their journey in politics is always energizing, so I try to always say yes.
6:30 p.m. — Emergency call from our development officer who needs multiple things from me urgently that I haven’t given her yet.
8 p.m. — Wasn’t I going to end work early today?
9 p.m. — Shutting it down for the night and resolving NOT to work at all this weekend, even though I could really use the catch-up time.