Every MoC has at least one district office, and many MoCs have several spread through their district or state. These are public offices, open for anybody to visit — you don’t need an appointment. You can take advantage of this to stage an impromptu town hall meeting by showing up with a small group. It is much harder for district or DC staff to turn away a group than a single constituent, even without an appointment.
Find out where your Member’s local offices are.
The official webpage for your MoC will list the address of every local office. You can find those webpages easily through a simple Google search. In most cases, the URL for a House member will be www.[lastname].house.gov, and the URL for Senate offices is www.[lastname].senate.gov.
Plan a trip when the Member is there.
Most MoC district offices are open only during regular business hours, 9am-5pm. While MoCs spend a fair amount of time in Washington, they are often “in district” on Mondays and Fridays, and there are weeks designated for MoCs to work in district. The MoC is most likely to be at the “main” office — the office in the largest city in the district, and where the MoC’s district director works. Ideally, plan a time when you and several other people can show up together.
Prepare several questions ahead of time.
As with the town halls, you should prepare a list of questions ahead of time.
Politely, but firmly, ask to meet with the Member directly.
Staff will ask you to leave or at best “offer to take down your concerns.” Don’t settle for that. You want to speak with the MoC directly. If they are not in, ask when they will next be in. If the staffer doesn’t know, tell them you will wait until they find out. Sit politely in the lobby. Note, on any given weekend, the MoC may or may not actually come to that district office.
Note that office sit-ins can backfire.
Be very thoughtful about the optics of your visit. This tactic works best when you are protesting an issue that directly affects you and/or members of your group (e.g., seniors and caregivers on Medicare cuts, or Muslims and allies protesting a Muslim registry). Being polite and respectful throughout is critical.
Meet with the staffer.
Even if you are able to get a one-off meeting with the MoC, you are most often going to be meeting with their staff. In district, the best person to meet with is the district director, or the head of the local district office you’re visiting. There are real advantages to building a relationship with these staff. In some cases, they may be more open to progressive ideas than the MoC, and having a good meeting with/building a relationship with a supportive staff member can be a good way to move your issue up the chain of command. Follow these steps for a good staff meeting:
- Have a specific “ask” — e.g., vote against X, cosponsor Y, publicly state Z, etc.
- Leave staff with a brief write-up of your issue, with your ask clearly stated.
- Share a personal story of how you or someone in your group is personally impacted by the specific issue (health care, immigration, Medicare, etc.).
- Be polite — yelling at the underpaid, overworked staffer won’t help your cause.
- Be persistent — get their business card and call/email them regularly; ask if the MoC has taken action on the issue.
Advertise what you’re doing.
Communicate on social media, and tell the local reporters you follow what is happening. Take and send pictures and videos with your group: “At Congresswoman Sara’s office with 10 other constituents to talk to her about privatizing Medicare. She refuses to meet with us and staff won’t tell us when she will come out. We’re waiting.”