Staying informed of your legislators’ activities and positions is vitally important.
The ABC Action Center makes it easy and convenient to stay up to date. You can do this in a variety of ways:
- Regularly (every month) visit your legislators’ websites, as well as the ABC Action Center website (action.abc.org), to keep track of how they voted on key ABC issues.
- Sign up for ABC’s Government Affairs newsletter to receive the latest legislative updates from ABC National (email firstname.lastname@example.org to do this).
- Ensure that your name is on your legislators’ mailing lists to receive newsletters and position papers.
- Become active on your local ABC chapter’s legislative committee.
- Attend LegCon, ABC’s National Legislative Conference to meet with your members of Congress at their Capitol Hill offices, and meet their Washington, D.C., staff in person.
- Read and take action when you receive the ABC Action Alerts—an indication that immediate action is required on an important issue.
- Obtain issue papers and updates on ABC’s legislative agenda by visiting the Politics and Policy sections of the ABC National website.
- Ask for help: Contact the Director of Grassroots at ABC National who is full of ideas and grassroots campaign knowledge.
- Always say thank you! Remember that your legislator’s time is very import.
Hosting an event at which your legislator can meet and talk with a group of ABC members is an easy and often successful way to create a lasting impression and relationship. Though it may sound intimidating at first, organizing a meeting is very simple and can be done in a variety of settings—luncheons, dinners, informal coffee hours, etc.
Here are some tips for scheduling an event:
Send your legislator a written invitation three to four weeks before the date of the event. Be considerate of the legislator’s schedule by offering several possible dates and times. Your RPM can advise when Congress will likely be in recess to help you coordinate a good time to meet.
Clearly state the purpose of the event and the number of people you expect to attend. When the legislator confirms, send a written confirmation to his or her office, reiterating the purpose and format of the event, including:
- time, location, and length of the program;
- topic or purpose of the event and the legislator’s function at the event;
- proper attire;
- the number of people expected to attend;
- a profile of the audience (e.g., ABC members, general constituents, business owners, chapter leadership);
- whether the legislator is expected to speak and, if so, for how long;
- whether the legislator requires any audio-visual equipment;
- whether other legislators, candidates or participants have been invited; and
- whether food will be served. (Be aware that there are restrictions regarding the amount of food that can be served. Contact email@example.com prior to the event to ensure you are in compliance with the law.
One week before the event, telephone the invitees to ensure good attendance. After the event, send thank-you notes to the legislator as well as to the participants emphasizing the positive results of the event and the value of similar events in the future.
Communication by Telephone
Calling is a great option when immediately trying to convey your opinion. Call a member of Congress’ office prior to an important vote to remind him or her how you would like them to vote. Congressional offices almost always count the number of calls received for and against certain pieces of legislation, and consider these calls an informal gauge of their constituents’ opinions. For example, with regard to the card check legislation, one Senate office told ABC that it had received 25 calls supporting the bill for every one call against the bill. ABC is strongly opposed to this legislation. See Appendix C for a Guide to Effective Calls.
Guide to Effective Calls
While it usually is best to put your views in writing to your legislators, when a vote is scheduled to take place immediately, calling your representative’s office is a very effective way to make your views known.
Some points to keep in mind:
- Unless you are a personal friend of the legislator, it is not necessary to speak directly with him or her. You can leave a message about your concerns with the individual who answers the phone, or, better yet, with the legislator’s staff member who handles the particular issue in question. “I’d like to talk to the individual in your office who handles labor legislation.”
- Try not to argue. Just express your opinion. Say why you feel the way you do, and state what action you want your legislator to take. “I am against H.R.100 because it will cost my business more than $1,000 extra per employee each year– this is something I just cannot afford. Please let Representative Smith know that I urge him to vote ‘no’ on this bill.”
- Seek assurances that the message will be transmitted to your legislator, and request a response in writing. “Would you please pass this message directly to Representative Smith, and also send me a letter about his views on the bill?”
- It is very important when calling a legislator’s office to remember these cardinal rules:
- Be sure to give your full name and address; and, keep your call short and to the point.
- Your legislator’s number is available through the ABC Action app.
Communicating by Fax and Email
When a bill is coming up for a vote, and there is not enough time for a letter or personal meeting, email and fax are the fastest ways to voice your opinion. The guidelines listed above for writing letters apply to these forms of communication as well. While personalized constituent correspondence is ideal, ABC also utilizes its Grassroots network and VoterVOICE software to distribute Action Alerts, making it easy to e-mail your legislators. A message is pre-written according to the legislation, and with only a few clicks a message is sent. When you receive an Action Alert, distribute it to your employees and associates- strength in numbers is the only way to be really effective in these instances.