Meeting Your Reps: A Toolkit

Setting up and connecting with your Representatives is easier than you think. Below is an easy how-to breakdown. Look easy? That’s because it is.
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1. Who is your Target? The first question is always who your Representative is – people care about their voters and often… not a lot of other people. Find out who your Representatives are. Once you know the office you’re targeting, find out what that office cares about. Are they great on LGBT issues? Great! Sex work and the policing of the sex trade disproportionately impacts LGBTQ communities. Are they serious about violence against women? Don’t forget to mention that criminalization of sex work contributes to violence against women. Sex work is an intersectional issue, and touches all of our communities in different ways.
     – Once you know the office, find out the right staffer, who you’ll actually meet with. While your Reps may be great, the goal is to build a relationship with the right staffer – that’s who your rep listens to when making decisions. Call their office to ask for the scheduler or the staffer who handles issues related to LGBT communities, criminal justice reform, women’s health – however you think is best to talk about the issue, based on what you and your rep both care about. (If you have a bill you’re going in to talk about, ask who is tasked with that bill.)
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2. Schedule your meeting. The sooner the better.   You can set up a meeting on the phone or email them. Here’s an easy form letter that you can adapt for your voice and your group:

Subject: Meeting Request, June 1

Dear Mx. ((Staffer)),

I am writing on behalf of a group of advocates to request a meeting to discuss the challenges and issues of those who trade sex on Friday, June 1.

On that day, advocates from across the country are meeting with their Representatives to share this information, especially the recent impact on our communities since the passage of FOSTA/SESTA, and we invite your office to be part of this dialogue.

We are a group of advocates working from the perspectives of harm reduction, LGBTQ communities, and economic justice to address issues which compromise the health and well being of individuals impacted by the sex trade. I will be joined in this meeting by other constituents from your district ((are you guys repping orgs? how do you relate to this issue?))

We welcome the opportunity to sit down for a meeting on June 1. I will be in touch to see if this is possible. In the  meantime, I can be contacted at this email (Yours!) or by phone at ((Yours!))

Sincerely,
Name

3. Get the basics on lobbying. There are so many great guides to learning about lobbying.

What if we’re a non-profit? Unless you are contractually barred, a 501c3 is able to spend 10% of its overall budget on lobbying. Lobbying is “persuade members of a legislative body to propose, support, oppose, amend, or repeal legislation.” This doesn’t include general education and advocacy, but would include a direct ask. “These are the harms of criminalization” is educational. “Because criminalization is harmful, we ask you to repeal the loitering statute, Mx. Member of the State Legislature who has that jurisdiction.” is lobbying. Is your crew all unpaid volunteers who spent $20 on leave behind printing? That’s $20 out of your annual, total organizational budget that counts towards lobbying. For more info, check out Nolo’s Guide.
4. Who are you going with? Meet and plan! If you’re going with a group of local folks (3-5 is ideal), get together and talk through your meeting. What is the outcome you want? For June 1, the goal was to start relationship-building, and let offices know what has happened in the wake of SESTA/FOSTA. For a lot of staffers this will be the first meeting on sex workers’ needs and concerns. The general outline for the day was:
  • What is sex work
  • What are the major issues sex workers face
  • What was SESTA/FOSTA (the Member probably voted for it), and what has the impact been
  • What is our major ask? Reach out to us moving forward and know that talking to sex workers means talking to the experts on the sex trade. (Leave your contact info, cards, palm cards if you’re with an org)

What do you want out of this meeting?

4. Practice! Who’s going to say what, who’s going to facilitate, who wants to share their story? Get to know each other and have a few practice meetings sharing the information and give each other feedback. It’ll be so much easier when you know everyone’s style.

5. Have your meeting! You’ll sit down with a staffer, run through your stuff, and go over the documents you’re leaving behind. Expect about a half hour, answer their questions, and leave on a good note. Leave your contact info, any reports/documents you brought, thank them for their time, and follow up immediately with an email.

Relationship building takes time. If lobbying meeting don’t work for you on June 1, meet others and plan! Write letters to support a bill. Make the day work for you.

On June 1 we went in with a packet of information to drop off, including:

Like these? Use them. Want to make your own? Here’s a guide on how to make one-pagers from the International Society for Science in Education.

6.Post about it! If you had a great meeting with a Rep, tell Twitter, tell Switter, and tell us! We’ll be collecting info on how it went, what was helpful, and if you’d like to stay up on these conversations moving forward.

7. Follow up: As soon as you get out, send an email thanking them for their time. If they asked for anything (other contacts, more info, research, an invite to June 2), send that along. You may also want to send the PDFs of whatever you left behind. Didn’t have a good meeting? Ask for another staffer to connect with.
Then what? Relationships aren’t built in a meeting. Follow-up. When your rep does something good, let them know. When there’s a bill coming up you want to flag for them, send a note. Ask them for advice on how to push an issue forward. Relationships are a back and forth – make it worthwhile.