Building a Just Transition through the Green New Deal
Table of Contents
- Schedule the Meeting
- During the Meeting
- After the Meeting
- Media Work
- Talking Points
- Background Documents
How to Schedule and Conduct a Meeting with your Congressperson in their District Office
Members of Congress have at least one office in their congressional district. US senators generally have several. Face-to-face meetings with your elected officials and their key staff in the district office are an extremely effective way to get to know them and to talk to them about the need to move from an extractive economy to a regenerative economy. Here are some tips for setting up a meeting with your elected representative in their district office.
VISITING YOUR REPRESENTATIVE DURING THE DISTRICT WORK WEEK:
The House of Representatives has a District Work Period scheduled from Tuesday, February 19 to Thursday, February 21, 2019 when your MOC will be at home and making time to meet with constituents like you! To set up your meeting, call your Representative’s district office as soon as possible and request a meeting.
CALLING THE LEGISLATOR’S OFFICE & SETTING UP YOUR MEETING:
The contact information for your senators and representative is available on-line. You can either call the DC office number listed and ask for the district office number or check out their website where you can typically find the district office number at the bottom of their webpage.
To set up a meeting, we recommend you call first and ask for the representative’s scheduler or the district office director. Let them know you are calling to request a meeting with your Representative and you’d like to meet at a convenient time during the February 19-21 district work period in their local office. You will also want to include that you are a member group of the Climate Justice Alliance, that you’d like to talk about the Green New Deal and Frontline and Just Transition Solutions to the climate crisis, and that you’ll be bringing some other constituents with you.
SEND A WRITTEN REQUEST FOR A MEETING:
Email the scheduler a written request for an appointment with your Representative. Identify yourself as a constituent, list the other advocates or organizations that will be present at the meeting and briefly explain what you would like to discuss with your legislator.
Here’s a sample written meeting request:
Subject: Request for a meeting in the District Office
Dear Scheduler ___________________
On behalf of the (insert your organization name here), a member of the Climate Justice Alliance and the many people in our community that we represent, we would like to request a meeting with Representative (full name of your Rep) during the district work period to discuss frontline community solutions to climate change.
As constituents deeply concerned with the escalating climate crisis, we’d like to discuss pathways towards resilient, regenerative and equitable economies and the importance of creating a Just Transition through a Green New Deal for (name of your community). As members of the Climate Justice Alliance, we are forging a new center of gravity in the climate movement by uniting frontline communities and base-building organizations into a formidable force for transitioning from an extractive economy toward a more regenerative and renewable economy that leaves no one behind.
We look forward to meeting with your boss to discuss this further.
Sincerely, (Name of person who will follow up and set meeting for you)
FOLLOW UP ON YOUR WRITTEN REQUEST:
Follow up on your email request the following day if you haven’t heard back by calling and asking to speak with the scheduler. Tell the scheduler who you are, where you are from, and the organizations you are affiliated with. Inform the staffer that you are calling to follow up on a written request for a meeting.
SCHEDULE A MEETING:
If, after your attempts, the scheduler states that the legislator will be unable to meet with you, request that the senior legislative aide on climate policy in the office meet with your group. It is perfectly fine to meet with them in place of the MOC, remember they recommend to their boss what policy action to take and support.
DURING THE MEETING:
Face-to-face meetings with your elected officials and their key staff are an extremely effective way to develop relationships and educate legislators on issues that are important to their constituents. Here are some tips for having an effective personal meeting with legislators.
COORDINATE YOUR GROUP:
If you are taking a few of your colleagues with you when you visit your legislator, coordinate in advance who will speak in which order and to what points.
You may only have 5-15 minutes to state your case and your meeting may be interrupted. It is crucial that you are well prepared to express your views succinctly and clearly so review your talking points and assign different points to different people in your group If you go with several people, it can make sense to designate a timekeeper.
TAKE MATERIALS WITH YOU:
Given limited time for your meeting, it is helpful to have brief fact sheets or other material that you can leave behind with the legislator and staff. Below you’ll find suggested background materials to print for ‘leave-behind’ folders. If possible, attach your business card with the material you leave with the legislator’s office.
BE ON TIME:
Legislators are extremely busy and may be forced to skip your meeting if you are running late. If you know you are going to be late, call ahead to inform the legislator’s office. They will try their best to accommodate you if you give them a little warning.
BE READY TO MEET WITH STAFF:
Don’t be disappointed if you meet with staff instead of your legislator; this may happen due to last minute changes. Key staff aides are often more familiar with specific policy issues than their busy bosses, and are in the best position to listen to your point of view and subsequently advise the legislator of your concerns at precisely the right moment. Meeting with key staff is just as important as meeting personally with legislators.
IDENTIFY YOURSELF AS A CONSTITUENT:
Mention the district where you vote.
IDENTIFY YOURSELF WITHIN THE COMMUNITY:
Inform your legislator with which local group you are affiliated and that you work with the legislator’s constituents. Your message will have more weight if the legislator knows that you are involved as a community leader.
START WITH A COMPLIMENT:
If possible, thank legislators for their support on a prior issue or for their participation in a community event. At a minimum, thank them for meeting with you.
TAKE THE INITIATIVE:
Meetings with legislators and staff usually begin with small talk. This puts everyone at ease. However, you need to send a signal that you have something specific to say, and not let the small talk consume too much of your limited time.
State briefly, and concisely what issue you want to discuss, what your position is and what action you want the legislator to take (such as supporting a Green New Deal for your city through concrete local measures at a Just Transition). Be as specific as possible. Follow this with facts and personal anecdotes about why the legislator should take your position. Find more information on CJA’s position on the final GND resolution released in Congress earlier this month here. You can also refer to our talking points from earlier this year for guidance.
FOCUS ON ONE OR TWO ISSUES:
Since time is limited, don’t try to cover too many issues in one meeting, even though they are important to you. Focus on a couple of main issues; you can always leave behind fact sheets on other issues. Print a copy of the CJA Green New Deal Statement that was issued at the end of 2018 and this recent article by GRIST which helps explain our support and concerns with the final resolution released in February 2019, the CJA Just Transition Principles, and documents about the work of your organization to leave with your Member of Congress and staff at the end of your meeting. Make sure to include your card or contact information.
BE INFORMATIVE, BE THOROUGH, BUT BE CONCISE:
Again, you won’t have much time to present your case, so don’t try to chronicle the history of a complex issue in ten minutes. If the issue is complicated, say so, and leave behind or offer to provide materials that explain the problem more completely.
TELL YOUR PERSONAL STORY: Nothing is more important!
Personalize the issue – explain how it affects you and those close to you! If you illustrate how individuals are personally affected in your district, the legislator may realize the impact the issue has on their constituents.
DON’T ARGUE OVER POLICY ISSUES:
Present your case in a straightforward and forceful manner. If the legislator disagrees with your position, agree to disagree for the moment and move on to your next topic. You can always follow up with a letter explaining your views in further detail.
MENTION OTHER SUPPORTERS:
Inform the legislator about other organizations, important individuals, government officials and legislators who support your position. If you are working with a coalition, mention other coalition members. This will demonstrate broad-based support.
BE A GOOD LISTENER:
After you deliver your message, allow the legislator to respond. However, bring the conversation back to the issue at hand if the legislator goes off on a tangent or tries to evade it. Answer any questions to the best of your ability, but if you don’t know the answer, admit it. You can always check with CJA policy staff to provide the information promptly. Simply let the legislator know that you are not sure and you can get back to them.
DOCUMENT YOUR MEETING:
Take a group photo with your Representative or their staff and share it on social media. You can also ask them to record a short video with you. Click here for tips and tool around social media.
VOLUNTEER TO BE A RESOURCE CONTACT:
Legislators and their staff will always welcome a constituent who is knowledgeable on specific issues and is willing to be a local contact who can give them advice on short notice.
FOLLOW UP WITH A THANK YOU: When you return home, send the legislator a brief thank you note for meeting with you. Briefly restate your concern and requested action. If you met with staff, send them a thank you note as well.
Get creative here! Your thank you note can be memorable and remind the MOC of your group and concerns. Some ideas include: thank you artwork from youth or children in your community, a pin or picture with your organization’s name, city and state, etc. Members of Congress, especially new ones, are always looking for items to hang on their office walls to show off their connection with constituents.
Send a media release immediately following your meeting to your local media. This may help gain interest from the press in your work and your visit. Here’s a sample press release you can personalize. If you need a list of press outlet contacts in your area email firstname.lastname@example.org
Share pictures and outcomes from your meeting with your Representative on social media! Check out our social media tips and tools here and don’t forget to tag us at: @CJAOurPower and we’ll help amplify your visit. When you post or tweet make sure to use the hashtags: #CJAOurPower #JustTransition and #GreenNewDeal
Talking Points to Expand Upon in Your Meeting with Your Representative
Click here to download the talking points. Make sure to review our most recent position on the final GND resolution here and see what CJA members are saying about it in the news.
The Green New Deal should support Communities, not Corporations
Local communities like ours all over the country are first and most impacted by climate change and disproportionately impacted by pollution, poverty and other negative impacts associated with the fossil fuel and dirty energy industry, which has caused and profiteered from such harm.
Oil refineries, pipelines, power plants, mines, incinerators and other polluting infrastructure is often sited next to our communities; we therefore, have had to create solutions out of necessity that address the multi-faceted impacts we deal with on a daily basis.
Forging pathways to a just and healthy future that transitions our community from these harmful industries to more regenerative and renewable systems like local food systems, safe, green and affordable housing, public transportation run on renewable energy and (…list what you are doing here) is the way forward and should be the basis of any Green New Deal. This is what we call a Just Transition.
Frontline community knowledge bears the best solutions
Our communities understand the flaws and deficiencies of our nation’s industrial systems better than most, especially where these systems have caused us direct harm. We have a clear sense of the systemic change we need to protect the health of our air, our water, our land and our children. We have been cultivating transformative pathways, for solutions rooted in place-based ecological knowledge and “lived experience” and hope you will support our work moving forward.
We must ensure future generations have the ability to deepen democracy
Communities of color and working class communities are rapidly becoming the new voting majority across the country and here at home. To win our support, and speak to the core concerns of our members, any new development, transition projects or any new “Green New Deal” should first seek to gain credibility from the grassroots and constituents at the local level.
We must be engaged and leading any future movement as our community transitions toward renewable and regenerative economies as we have already created many viable solutions. As members of the Climate Justice Alliance, a national network of 68 organizations in the US and Canada working on these issues, we have the knowledge and know-how to scale meaningful initiatives for the betterment of our community right now.
A GND should end the trillion dollars of public subsidies that are handed to the most destructive of industries.
To both repair historic harm and finance a Just Transition, the GND must look to both “stop the ongoing bad”, while financing and building a new economy that serves people and planet. We also need to develop capacity across multiple frontline communities, where the most locally-appropriate solutions are financed (reinvested) in ways that are regenerative, and intended to benefit the largest number of people.
We Need a Green New Deal for (Your Community)
We can’t wait for Washington to act, rather we want to build a Just Transition through a Green New Deal for (your city or community name) which needs to be supported now at the local and state levels and created here on the ground with consultation from your constituents.
Moving forward, we ask that you support our local work and consult with us on any future movement around the climate crisis and transitioning our community from a harmful economy to a safe and just one where all of our communities can thrive and survive.
You can find more in-depth talking points and background on the GND here.
- Final GND Congressional Resolution (Feb. 5, 2019 )
- CJA Statement on the Green New Deal released December 2018
- CJA Draft Greens New Legislative Session Letter Signed by 600 orgs
- Original GND by the Green Party about 10 years ago
- Kathy Castor (14th D-FL) the Chair of the Select Committee on Climate Crisis (Formerly Climate Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming during Obama years started by Nancy Pelosi) in the House.
- APPENDIX A: ENERGY DEMOCRACY PRINCIPLES
- APPENDIX B: CJA JUST TRANSITION PRINCIPLES
- APPENDIX C: JEMEZ PRINCIPLES OF DEMOCRATIC ORGANIZING