ABC Action is an advanced advocacy tool that enables users to become a vital part of the ABC grassroots advocacy efforts and further the merit shop philosophy.
Legislators respond best to the people they represent. Any legislator will tell you he or she would rather hear from a constituent than anyone else. Members of Congress depend on ABC members like you to tell them how proposed legislation or regulations will affect the construction industry, your district and especially your company and its employees.
Staying informed of your legislators’ activities and positions is vitally important.
The ABC Action Center makes it easy and convenient to stay up to date. You can do this in a variety of ways:
- Regularly (every month) visit your legislators’ websites, as well as the ABC Action Center website (action.abc.org), to keep track of how they voted on key ABC issues.
- Sign up for ABC’s Government Affairs newsletter to receive the latest legislative updates from ABC National (email firstname.lastname@example.org to do this).
- Ensure that your name is on your legislators’ mailing lists to receive newsletters and position papers.
- Become active on your local ABC chapter’s legislative committee.
- Attend LegCon, ABC’s National Legislative Conference to meet with your members of Congress at their Capitol Hill offices, and meet their Washington, D.C., staff in person.
- Read and take action when you receive the ABC Action Alerts—an indication that immediate action is required on an important issue.
- Obtain issue papers and updates on ABC’s legislative agenda by visiting the Politics and Policy sections of the ABC National website.
- Ask for help: Contact the Grassroots Coordinator, Kelly Tyroler (Tyroler@abc.org), at ABC National who is full of ideas and grassroots campaign knowledge.
- Always say thank you! Remember that your legislator’s time is very important.
Invite a legislator to see the industry at work and to meet your company’s employees. This is a great way to show legislators how their actions impact your business and its employees. Use the visit as an opportunity to reinforce your personal relationship with your legislator and to discuss relevant issues. Legislators look forward to learning more about constituents and businesses in their districts.
When scheduling the tour:
- Send a written invitation
- Schedule the tour well in advance, providing alternate dates; and
- Follow up the written invitation with a phone call and, if accepted, written confirmation.
Be sure to involve your local ABC chapter and ABC National in the event. Invite the chapter president to the event to serve as a representative from the association’s leadership to demonstrate the construction industry’s commitment to a strong relationship with the legislator.
Before the tour, decide on three key points and messages you want to convey. Do not overload the legislator with an enormous amount of facts and figures. Introduce the legislator to company officers and management personnel before the tour begins, possible over coffee or breakfast if time permits. Use this opportunity to provide a brief history of your company. Provide the legislator with written information, such as:
- Number of company employees;
- Gross annual payroll or revenue;
- Employee fringe benefits;
- Special company programs, such as safety, STEP (Safety Training, Evaluation Process), Accredited Quality Contractor,(AQG), workforce development, apprenticeship and craft training;
- Federal, state and local taxes paid;
- Community service projects sponsored or supported by the company or its employees;
- Cost of safety and environmental compliance;
- Health standards, safety devices and accident prevention programs;
- Total dollar investment in plant and equipment, as well as the estimated economic impact of the completed job;
- Energy conservation efforts;
- Numbers of shareholders;
- Number of dollars spent locally to purchase supplies;
- Other industries, companies or government projects that have hired the company to do work; and
- Uses of company revenue for new equipment, workforce development, safety and community service.
Have a definitive tour schedule, but leave enough time to adequately tour the jobsite and enjoy informal discussion. On an office tour, the chief executive office should greet the legislators and lead the tour. On a jobsite tour, a project manager or someone knowledgeable about eh project should lead the tour. This persona should be able to respond to questions from the legislator and introduce other field managers.
Notify employees of the time and date of the tour, as well as highlights of the legislator’s background. Emphasize the opportunity employees have to meet and speak personally with one of their legislators.
If you are a general contractor, advise your subcontractors of the visit and coordinate participation by the subcontractors and their employees. Introduce the legislator by name and office (Congressman X from X District) and allow time during the tour for employees to speak to him or her. It may further engage your employees and legislators welcome the opportunity to speak with as many constituents as possible.
Check your jobsite before the tour and choose particular areas, workforce groups and equipment that will illustrate or reinforce what you are trying to convey. You want the legislators to see employees working productively, and his or her constituents safely building America. Have appropriate personal protective equipment available for the legislator. If appropriate, present him or her with a personalized hard hat to wear on the jobsite. Avoid particularly dangerous areas of the jobsite. Ensure all equipment is operational and all employees are working diligently. Do not schedule jobsite visits during inspections by the owner or government or during critical lifts or concrete installation.
If the legislator cannot remain for an informal luncheon, follow the tour with a short, private discussion, focusing on the issues of greatest importance to your company, the district or state economy, and ABC. After the tour, continue to develop your relationship with the legislator. Ways to build a mutual understanding include:
- Send a letter of thanks. Always show your appreciation in writing and reiterate the key points made during the visit. Provide any information requested by the legislator.
- Showing interest in the legislator’s political and legislative activities. Offer to help the legislator with proposed legislation of particular concern to him and reiterate your request for his constituent newsletter.
- Providing the legislator with copies of photographs taken during the tour and copies of the company newsletter detailing the visit. Again, include the legislator on the mailing list for external company literature. Send information about the visit to your local ABC chapter and ABC National for possible use in newsletters or online
- Encouraging employees to communicate their views to this legislator about proposed legislation that concerns your company and the construction industry. Keep employees informed about the legislator’s position on important ABC issues and provide them with the opportunity to communicate with legislators by email if not in violation of a company policy
- Continuing to inform your legislator about your company’s activities and problems and never hesitating to voice your position on upcoming legislation.
- Knowing what your legislator is doing and how he or she is voting. Thank them when they support your position with their votes and advise them when their vote harms your company or the construction industry.
Also be sure to keep ABC up to date. Send a brief description of your meeting to ABC Grassroots Coordinator, highlighting the issues discussed and comments made by your legislator. This will enable ABC to reinforce your views when meeting with the legislator and his or her staff members in Washington, D.C.
Finally, tours are an excellent opportunity for media coverage; however, alerting the media should be left to the discretion of the legislator and his staff. ABC National Grassroots Coordinator, Kelly Tyroler (Tyroler@abc.org) can assist with the development and distribution of a news release, should the legislator want to invite the media.
Hosting an event at which your legislator can meet and talk with a group of ABC members is an easy and often successful way to create a lasting impression and relationship. Though it may sound intimidating at first, organizing a meeting is very simple and can be done in a variety of settings—luncheons, dinners, informal coffee hours, etc.
Here are some tips for scheduling an event:
Send your legislator a written invitation three to four weeks before the date of the event. Be considerate of the legislator’s schedule by offering several possible dates and times. Your RPM can advise when Congress will likely be in recess to help you coordinate a good time to meet.
Clearly state the purpose of the event and the number of people you expect to attend.
When the legislator confirms, send a written confirmation to his or her office, reiterating the purpose and format of the event, including:
- time, location, and length of the program;
- topic or purpose of the event and the legislator’s function at the event;
- proper attire;
- the number of people expected to attend;
- a profile of the audience (e.g., ABC members, general constituents, business owners,
- whether the legislator is expected to speak and, if so, for how long;
- whether the legislator requires any audio-visual equipment;
- whether other legislators, candidates or participants have been invited; and
- whether food will be served. (Be aware that there are restrictions regarding the amount of food that can be served. Contact email@example.com prior to the event to ensure you are in compliance with the law.
One week before the event, telephone the invitees to ensure good attendance.
After the event, send thank-you notes to the legislator as well as to the participants emphasizing the positive results of the event and the value of similar events in the future.
Communication by Telephone
Calling is a great option when immediately trying to convey your opinion. Call a member of Congress’ office prior to an important vote to remind him or her how you would like them to vote. Congressional offices almost always count the number of calls received for and against certain pieces of legislation, and consider these calls an informal gauge of their constituents’ opinions. For example, with regard to the card check legislation, one Senate office told ABC that it had received 25 calls supporting the bill for every one call against the bill. ABC is strongly opposed to this legislation. See Appendix C for a Guide to Effective Calls.
Guide to Effective Calls
While it usually is best to put your views in writing to your legislators, when a vote is scheduled to take place immediately, calling your representative’s office is a very effective way to make your views known.
Some points to keep in mind:
- Unless you are a personal friend of the legislator, it is not necessary to speak directly with him or her. You can leave a message about your concerns with the individual who answers the phone, or, better yet, with the legislator’s staff member who handles the particular issue in question. “I’d like to talk to the individual in your office who handles labor legislation.”
- Try not to argue. Just express your opinion. Say why you feel the way you do, and state what action you want your legislator to take. “I am against H.R.100 because it will cost my business more than $1,000 extra per employee each year– this is something I just cannot afford. Please let Representative Smith know that I urge him to vote ‘no’ on this bill.”
- Seek assurances that the message will be transmitted to your legislator, and request a response in writing. “Would you please pass this message directly to Representative Smith, and also send me a letter about his views on the bill?”
- It is very important when calling a legislator’s office to remember these cardinal rules:
- Be sure to give your full name and address; and, keep your call short and to the point.
- Your legislator’s number is available through the ABC Action app.
Communicating by Fax and Email
When a bill is coming up for a vote, and there is not enough time for a letter or personal meeting, email and fax are the fastest ways to voice your opinion. The guidelines listed above for writing letters apply to these forms of communication as well. While personalized constituent correspondence is ideal, ABC also utilizes its Grassroots network and VoterVOICE software to distribute Action Alerts, making it easy to e-mail your legislators. A message is pre-written according to the legislation, and with only a few clicks a message is sent. When you receive an Action Alert, distribute it to your employees and associates- strength in numbers is the only way to be really effective in these instances.