Still there can be fears within the union local about actively lobbying politicians. Some members may feel they can’t express themselves well enough, especially with someone they think knows more than they do. Yet in many cases, front line workers know more about a service than a politician ever will.
With a little experience, you’ll find that politicians are just ordinary people from a variety of backgrounds. And they’re always responsive to voters. No politician wants to be seen on the wrong side of an issue. Lobbying can help keep them informed.
Acting as a union, members are a powerful lobby group. If we don’t speak up, our opponents are the only group to get the ear of the decision-makers. Most campaigns can benefit from a quiet, behind-the-scenes lobby.
Lobbying can be short-term or ongoing. Petitions are often short-term ways of lobbying politicians to change their minds on a particular decision.
Long-term lobbying involves more commitment. It’s a year-round effort which can include regular attendance at public meetings, visits with city councillors, coffee with a board member, breakfast with a sympathetic provincial candidate or any ongoing communication with decision-makers.
Here are some ideas on how to lobby:
- Be organized. Arrange a meeting with the person you intend to lobby. Phone or write for an appointment. Confirm the time and date. Include background information.
- Look organized. Plan the agenda. Decide on your key points. Choose a spokesperson. Practise what you have to say.
- Ensure your delegation reflects the diversity of your membership and the community you serve.
- Know your audience. Keep your target’s special interests in mind. Your goal is to persuade others to support your position.
- Know your subject and stick to it. Be positive.
- Be sure your information is accurate. Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know the answer to some points. Offer to get back with more information and be sure to follow up.
- Be clear and concise. Don’t try to cover too much ground.
- Explain your position. Don’t assume your view is understood.
- Speak confidently but be a good listener. Try to identify areas of agreement. Avoid arguments. Don’t lecture.
- If your target favours your position, ask for help in identifying and persuading the opposition.
- If the target doesn’t, try to leave the door open. Prevent outright rejection of your position. Emphasize areas of common ground, not differences.
- Encourage members to approach different targets, then share your strategies and successes.
- Keep track of the public decisions of those being lobbied.
- Don’t give up.