Advocacy for Justice Continues… Virtually

Meg Olson
August 13, 2020

In response to the call to action on the April 2020 webinar, “NETWORK’s COVID-19 Response: Updates and Our Work Ahead,” Grassroots Advocates Teams and other NETWORK members and supporters from across the country held 24 meetings with their Senators’ offices in April and May to discuss what needs to be included in the fourth COVID-19 relief bill. As these were the first meetings held during the time of social distancing, NETWORK members and Senate schedulers worked together to coordinate these meetings to take place over the phone or via video conferencing.

Watch the COVID-19 Response webinar:

The specific topics of each of the meetings were chosen either based on the Senator’s position within leadership or key committee, or the NETWORK members’ advocacy interest and expertise. They included each of NETWORK’s seven Mend the Gap public policy priorities, as well as unemployment insurance, nutrition assistance, and caring for those who are incarcerated or in detention centers. Our Government Relations team helped prep advocates for their meetings and participated in calls held with Hill staff.

Read more about NETWORK’s COVID-19 legislative priorities:

Overall, NETWORK’s advocates found the virtual in-district and Hill meetings to be as effective as meeting in person. Sister Phyllis Tierny, SSJ of Rochester, New York joined with members of the LCWR Region 2 Justice Promoters Collaborative to discuss ensuring safe and fair elections and protecting all immigrants with Hill staff in Senator Gillibrand and Senator Schumer’s offices. One reason why she helped organize these meetings is because, “In these difficult and uncertain times, the issue of who can vote has become a priority as we look forward to the election in November.  Voting is both a privilege and a responsibility for all citizens and to be deprived of the opportunity because one is housebound or in danger of contracting the virus limits who can vote.” Sister Phyllis adds, “It was a privilege to interact with the legislative assistants of our New York Senators, knowing that they are sympathetic to these issues and will raise their voices in the Senate. One of the take-aways for me is the need for a different approach to work with legislators across the aisle. It is easy to think of politicians as ‘cardboard’ and talk at them. We need to find a way to engage their humanity and begin a different conversation!”

NETWORK is grateful for all of our members’ and supporters’ advocacy efforts around COVID-19, particularly for Black, Native American, and immigrant communities, as well as for those who are incarcerated or detained.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the ways our federal government has failed to structure a society that cares for those most in need… The grave challenges facing the United States and the world are unprecedented and require a bold and compassionate response.”
From NETWORK’s COVID-19 Legislative Priorities Leave Behind

This story was originally published in the Third Quarter 2020 issue of Connection magazine. Read the full issue