Tips on taking action
- Analyze the politics on pensions. What is the state and local political landscape? Are political action committees (PACs), corporations, and other interest groups funding campaigns to oppose public employee pensions?
- What is the state and local political landscape? Are political action committees (PACs), corporations, and other interest groups funding campaigns to oppose public employee pensions?
- Plan your political engagement. Which incumbents deserve support and which need to be replaced? Which seats are winnable? Keep school boards as well as city and county councils in mind.
- Keep members informed. Be sure they know it’s important for them to be involved in elections at all levels—for local school board members, state legislators and other state officeholders, as well as for members of Congress. Remind them that what happens in the state capitol and Washington, D.C., affects them and their families locally.
- Share tactics and research of adversaries. Inoculate members against the political tactics of public employee pension adversaries. Prepare them to address misinformation and mischaracterizations regarding public employee pensions.
- Help leaders become effective spokespersons. Educate them on public employee pension and retirement security issues and provide media training.
Tips for calling your legislator
Making a phone call to your legislator is quick, easy, and can be done at a moment’s notice. All it takes is a few steps to make sure the phone call will be effective:
1. Plan. Your call will be more effective if you plan what you are going to say. Make some notes, and you’ll be able to keep your message straightforward and to the point.
2. Make it personal. After identifying the key point you want to make, think a bout a personal story or angle to support your position.
3. Know when to call. Find out when the legislator will be in the home district. If you call then, the legislator will have more time to talk with you, and the timing of your call will reinforce the fact that you are a constituent talking on the legislator’s home turf.
4. Leave a message. If you are calling during the legislative session, you may not be able to reach your legislator, but you can leave a message with a staff member. Staff are often crucial to winning the legislator’s support, so be sure to get the staff person’s full name and say thank you for passing on your message.
5. Identify yourself as a constituent. Legislators are most responsive to the people who can keep them in office, their constituents. If you voted for the legislator, mention that fact. If you are on behalf of a coalition or as an Association representative, mention that as well.
6. Explain your position. Using your notes, state the reason for the call and explain your point of view. Ask the legislator to state their position.
7. Say thanks. If the legislator agrees to support your position, say thank you. No matter what the legislator’s views, thank them for taking time to meet with you. Be clear that you will be tracking all votes on issues related to public employee pensions and retirement security.
8. Recruit friends and family. Because quantity is critical, recruit friends, family members, and colleagues to make similar calls. Legislators pay more attention when they know many constituents care about an issue.
9. Keep calling. Call again when you want to ask the legislator to support a specific bill or take a particular action.
Seven tips for writing to your legislator
Writing a letter to your legislator allows you to share more information than in a phone call. The downside of sending a letter is that it’s one-way communication: you don’t get to interact with the legislator and he or she can’t ask questions, state a position, or respond to a specific request. For these reasons, consider calling or visiting your legislator as a follow-up to your letter.
1. Identify yourself as a constituent. Write your return address on the envelope so that the legislator’s staff member knows immediately that you are a constituent.
2. Personalize your letter. Handwritten letters are effective, provided the handwriting is legible. If you are using a form letter, tailor it to your situation by using personal examples to make your case. Photocopies of generic letters are generally not effective.
3. Make the issue a local one. Use a local news item as a springboard for your concern or reason for writing. Use local examples to illustrate why public employee pensions and retirement security are important to your community.
4. Acknowledge prior support. If the legislator has supported public employee pension issues in the past, say thank you. Give reasons why the legislator should continue to support our issues—don’t take the support for granted.
5. Shorter is better. Keep your letter brief—one page is best. Make sure any supporting information you attach to the letter is brief as well.
6. Follow up. In the letter, note that you will be following up with a phone call or visit.
7. Solicit more letters from pension allies. Quantity matters. Legislators pay more attention when they know many constituents care about an issue. Ask friends, family members, and colleagues to write letters.