Target: Legislative Bodies
Below is a very brief guide to meeting with representatives. These steps can work on the local, state and federal level, but examples are Federal.
What is a staffer meeting
Meeting with the office of a representative is a way to get more substantive education across. In these meetings you actually get to sit down with a staffer and discuss the issue at hand. These meetings can happen anytime, depending on the staffer’s schedule.
Whom to target
The most impactful meetings are with your reps, especially on the local level. Reps care about the people voting for them and the locations they represent. As you move to the state and federal level, constituents remain important, but issue experts are as well. It’s always a plus to have a constituent in the meeting.
When doing Federal work, positionality and access might give you your targets. Working with an LGBTQ group? Hit up the LGBT Equality Caucus members. Are you working on a bill that’s currently assigned to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee? Start there.
What is needed
A successful call in day is about relationship building. The best meetings leave the staffer knowing they can trust you – with information, advice, and connection to the right people to make the best decision. Meeting with staffers requires more prep work and a commitment to follow-up.
Prep: Who are your meeting with? What do they care about? What appointments do they have? What is their history, and what do you think is possible?
Tell us about this office. You can find out what your Rep or Senator cares about on their website, and by how much they champion different issues. Sex workers’ rights falls into a lot of different issue areas, and can be described in a lot of different ways, so this will help you guide your talking points.
Making the issue relevant: Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) has introduced multiple bills on anti-policing, and talks about it frequently. If you’re meeting with her (amazing) office, talk about how sex workers’ rights as an issue of anti-policing.
Prep: Know your Issue. Know your bill (if that’s what you’re there for). Know yourself. What is the issue and what does it look like in the district/state that the Rep is from. Why should they care based on what they already care about?
We all know sex workers’ rights, but can we explain it to others? The person you are meeting with may be new to the issue, may have preconceived ideas about it, and has probably met with someone who wasn’t a fan at least once. How do you explain the issue you’re there to talk about in the way that the audience can access.
How would this specifically impact you? You bring a wealth of unique knowledge, so let them know how to come to the issue. “We’ve been doing outreach for three years.” “We organize sex workers in (your city) with community building and safety trainings.” Show them why you’re the expert.
Prep: Know yourself and your Team. Who is going in? What is every person’s specific role of contribution to this conversation?
Find your team! We recommend no more than four people in a meeting to keep it manageable.
Practice until you feel comfortable bouncing off of each other, and each person knows what they’re going to be saying. Each person brings a different background and knowledge – diversify your perspectives.
Set up your Meeting.
Call the main office of your Rep/Senator – it’s faster. Find Contact Info here. Ask for the contact info for the staffer who has the relevant “portfolio” (subject area – most likely it’ll be the person who covers tech) and email them directly for a meeting or ask for the scheduler, which is the fastest way to get on the calendar.
When you confirm your meeting with the staffer 1-2 days in advance, send your materials so they already have it and can prepare themselves.
Practice. Again. More. Practice. Harder.
Sit with the people who will be in the meeting and practice with one person playing the staffer. Critique each other, ask hard questions, learn each others’ styles of presentation. Reading cues can especially be difficult on the phone or on a Zoom, so the more practice you have with each other, the better you’ll be able to pivot, have someone pull in the conversation, or know who is an expert on what question.
Below is a training developed for the First Sex Worker Lobby Day in 2019.
Have the meeting.
Right now, meetings may be on Zoom, on the phone, or in person. Pump yourselves up like you would before meeting someone else for the first time, take a deep breath, have your materials ready to go, and trust yourself. It’s ok if there’s a question you don’t know, and it’s a good reason to follow up. Be prepared for the range of experiences you may have, and set some self-care and debrief time (they aren’t the same thing) for afterwards.
Say thank you. Make them a regular.
Email a thank you for their time! Build that relationship like you would with any client.
Reiterate the ask.
Include any materials, reports, information they requested during the meeting. Re-send the materials you went over in the meeting.
Examples in sex worker-led campaigns