“How to Lobby:” Training the Stone Ridge Sophomore Class
Last week, the Grassroots Mobilization team welcomed the last of the Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart sophomore class to our office for a “How to Lobby” Presentation before taking them up to Capitol Hill to visit their federal legislators. Beginning in October, we (Erin Sutherland and Alannah Boyle, Grassroots Mobilization Associates) have had the opportunity to train and accompany the entire sophomore class at Stone Ridge on dozens of lobby visits.
In each visit, we taught the sophomores about the importance of Family Friendly Workplace policies, including paid family medical and sick leave. Right now, there are two great bills going through both the House and Senate: The Healthy Families Act (H.R. 1784/S. 840) which guarantees workers the right to earn sick days to care for themselves or a family member, and the FAMILY Act (H.R. 1185/S. 463), which provides workers the opportunity to access paid sick leave. Through Stone Ridge’s Social Action program, a group of approximately ten sophomores visited the NETWORK office every other week for the past seven months. It is only at the end of this program that we see the magnitude of our reach.
“I had not gone on a lobby visit until I started working at NETWORK. For me, when I had heard of lobbying in the past, the word connoted meeting of special interests, of wealthy people in suits, speaking more eloquently on issues than I could. However, after going to my first lobby visit in coalition (and with coaching from Sr. Quincy Howard, Government Relations Advocate at NETWORK) this past fall, I realized that the only thing needed for a successful lobby visit and sincere conviction in an issue I cared about. Alannah and I tried to pass on these two important skills to our students by staging mock lobby visits with lots of contingencies (what if we need to meet in the hallway, as is common? Or if the staffer we meet with tries to change the topic of our visit?) to help make the girls prepared and confident for whatever could come their way. We also talked with the students about how, as women, the right to paid family and medical leave has or will affect us personally at some point in our lives, between becoming a parent, to needing to take care or a relative, or taking time off in the wake of personal trauma.
“Every few weeks, I was humbled to accompany such eloquent and diligent young women to advocate for such important policies. It made me hopeful to see the next generation already engaged in federal advocacy – years before I was! It also reinforced my belief that lobbying can and should be accessible to all as a way to engage with our legislators on issues that matter to us.”
“Unlike Erin, I had been on a few lobby visits prior to beginning my work here at NETWORK. The first time I went on a lobby visit was as a college student after attending the Ignatian Family Teach-In when I myself was first trained by a NETWORK staff member on how to lobby, almost five years ago. I vividly remember how excited and equipped I felt after completing my first training and attending my first lobby visit. Realizing now that Erin and I have trained almost 100 high school students, and equipped them with these same skills, has been incredibly rewarding. We all have the ability to lobby and advocate our elected officials on issues that matter to us. As constituents, our Members of Congress work for us. NETWORK’s “How to Lobby” training helps to answer the questions that can make lobbying seem scary.”