Health CareLocal Organizing

Graham-Cassidy Organizing Toolkit


Introduction

Goal and Strategy

Tactics 


Introduction

Trump and the Senate Republicans are on a tight deadline if they have any hope of passing TrumpCare, and we're going to do everything we can to stop them.

For months, Indivisible groups have been showing up at district offices, making phone calls, planning die-ins and more to stop TrumpCare. This newest iteration of TrumpCare, the Graham-Cassidy bill, is a serious threat (it guts protections for veterans, mental health, opioids, women’s health and seniors—and you can forget pre-existing conditions protections) and we have a short window to stop it. The constituent pressure of Indivisible groups across the country has stopped TrumpCare before, and it will stop it again this time.

Join Indivisible groups around the country for a National Day of Action at district offices on Monday, September 25th and keep up the pressure both before and after.

Goal and Strategy

This bill is a disaster for all Americans, and will potentially kick millions of people off of health care. Members of Congress (MoCs) felt our anger, and our power when they tried to pass the most recent attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Together, we’re going to let them know that no version of a repeal is acceptable. Senate Republicans intend to hold at least one sham hearing next week to pretend that they’ve given this bill the transparent debate that it needs.

We can beat this with constituent power, namely with the whole Indivisible network coming together to show our Senators that we’re watching and we’ll remember their vote on this bill.

Tactics

There are a few things you can do to keep up the pressure on your Member of Congress.

  1. Plan an event for the National Day of Action on Monday and register it here. You can either do a sit-in or a die-in depending on what works best for your district office. You’ll find guidelines for both below.
  2. Keep up the pressure before and after! Check out trumpcareten.org for scripts and explainers to make your voices heard.
  3. Support other Indivisible groups in their work in key states. Check out our call tool to reach out to constituents in key states and connect them directly with their Senator.

DISTRICT OFFICE SIT-INS

Sit-ins are a peaceful direct action tactic wherein activists draw attention to an issue by sitting down and occupying a physical space. Often the chosen space is one where demonstrators might not typically be welcome, or where they can disrupt business-as-usual for powerful institutions or passersby. Sit-ins can be very effective in asserting a group’s right to be in a space, or in drawing attention to an issue. This tactic has a long history in American politics—most notably in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.

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.

Many of you already have extensive experience visiting your MoC’s district office. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to planning an effective action. Think about how the office is laid out and how staff have responded to your groups' visits before when planning your action. A sit-in expresses that your group is willing to sit there until your Senator or his or her staff address your concerns—that you are demanding to be heard. That is what makes these actions powerful.

Before the Action

  1. Find out where your MoCs’ local offices are. This is easy: go to www.contactingcongress.org and type in your zip code. This will bring up your Senators (and Representatives for that zip code), along with the district offices and addresses.
  2. Articulate your demands, and write these down. Clarity is crucial in any kind of potentially disruptive civil disobedience. Let there be no doubts about why we are doing what we’re doing. By now, you all will have voiced your concerns in the local paper, and you will have made many calls to their offices.  However, we can’t afford to let them vote without having heard our concerns in person.
  3. Determine your placement strategy. Some offices have rules about not letting groups bigger than two in to the office. If someone tells you they don’t allow groups in, will you walk in anyway? What if they lock the door to keep you out? Consider an alternate space if the office is inaccessible for whatever reason. This could mean the hallway, it could mean the sidewalk outside, the parking lot, etc. Be aware that blocking an entry or exit could mean that law enforcement could be called.
  4. Determine your exit strategy. How long will you stay at the office? Will you sit-in until your demands are met? Will you stay for predetermined number of hours? Come to a consensus on this, and then determine how you will exit the office once the time comes. A poorly planned exit can make your action appear to have ended in failure.
    • One suggestion: Everyone exits the building together after X hours of sitting in. Your spokesperson or action coordinator addresses the participants, passersby, and media outside the office after the predetermined period has ended. The spokesperson congratulates demonstrators on a successful action and says whether or not demands were met.
    • What will you do if your Senator's staff asks you to leave? You can say something like: “I understand why you're asking us to leave, but this is our Senator's office and (s)he works for us. We will be happy to leave as soon as our concerns have been addressed." However, the staff may insist that you leave or threaten to have you arrested. Decide as a group in advance how you want to respond and under what circumstances you would exit the office.
  5. Write an agenda for the action.
    Example Agenda:

    • Arrivals
    • Spokesperson asks staffer for meeting with MoC if they’re available, or with district director
    • Everyone sits down
    • Remarks (this is a great chance for people with health care stories to tell them to the office staffers and the crowd)
    • Chanting (optional)
    • Repeat
    • Exit
    • Post sit-in remarks
  6. Designate key roles.
    • Action Coordinator - The Action Coordinator should manage the logistics of the action, ensure that key participants have arrived, and signal when it is time to sit. This person should also give the signal when it is time to exit or determine, in case of emergency, whether the action needs to end early.
    • Spokesperson - The Spokesperson(s) should communicate with the staff and/or the MoC. This person should clearly state demands: that your group wishes to speak with the MoC, that you are there as concerned constituents worried about TrumpCare, and to demand that they vote NO. Spokespeople should also be responsible for speaking to the press.
    • Speakers - These individuals should share their story of how the TrumpCare will affect their lives or the lives of people close to them.
    • Police liaison - This is the individual responsible for speaking with law enforcement, if they are called. This person should not divulge information about who planned the event, who the Action Coordinator is, or dictate what participants do. The Police Liaison is a calm intermediary communicating between the demonstrators and police, if they show up.
    • Support team - This role is great for people who cannot sit down for long periods of time. The support team will bring snacks, water, pillows, and meals to the demonstrators to ensure that discomfort does not compromise the sit-in.
    • Who will sit? - This is the most straightforward and most important role. Several people in your group who are comfortable sitting down for long periods of time should commit to be the demonstrators. These people should be able to maintain their calm in case of confrontation.
    • Social Media Lead - THIS IS IMPORTANT. These are the individuals who should take photographs and livestream or live-Tweet the event. They should help broadcast your efforts to the world. Be sure to tag @IndivisibleTeam in your Tweets!
  7. Rehearse the event. Practice a few different scenarios. Have someone play the MoC’s staffer, disgruntled passersby, police, etc. Take stock of how you and your group are feeling as you rehearse. Is it uncomfortable to sit on the floor? Was it clear to your group how to respond if staff asked you to leave? If the police arrived? Practicing the event will allow you to make contingency plans and think critically about the experience and safety of the demonstrators.

At the Action

  1. Allow time for arrivals. Be discreet. The Action Coordinator should make sure that the event does not begin until all key roles have arrived. They should take attendance outside or in the parking lot.
  2. Everyone goes inside or nobody goes inside. Make sure everyone in your group and in the office is clear that ALL group members go inside the office or no one goes inside. If the staffer refuses to allow part of your group in the office, demand to have your Senator come outside to meet you instead.
  3. Go inside. The Spokesperson should clearly state your demands and politely, but firmly, ask to meet with the Senator in-person. 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, or if they can be put on speaker. 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. In district, the best person to meet with is the district director, or the head of the local district office you’re visiting. The district director or the office director will be the most senior staffer at the office and is the best person for you to speak with. 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”
    • Bring a brief write-up of your issue, with your demands clearly stated.
    • Share a personal story of how you or someone in your group will be personally impacted by TrumpCare
    • Be polite—yelling at the underpaid, overworked staffer won’t help your cause!
    • Be persistent. Even if you have a good introductory chat with the staff, you should not capitulate in your demands. You want to hear directly from your MoC!
  4. No answers? Sit down. If your MoC will not meet with you, won’t get on the phone with your group while you’re there, and there is no sign that your wishes will be honored, the Action Coordinator gives the signal. Everyone sits down.
  5. Throughout the sit-in, speakers will take turns sharing their stories and giving remarks. Call out your MoC by name, during each set of remarks. These speakers will be most moving to the staff, to the press, to viewers on social media, and will be energizing for the demonstrators who are sitting in. Consider chanting as well!
  6. Difficulties during the event. It is almost inevitable that some discomfort will be involved. It is important the Support Team do their best to mitigate this by bringing snacks, water, supplies, warm meals, pillows, and anything they can to make it easy for demonstrators to continue. This team is also a big part of morale during the event. They should be encouraging and should cheer on the demonstrators while being responsible for comfort.Your group might be physically uncomfortable. You might be confronted by staff. The police may be called. (A note on police encounters is a good resource.) NOTE: If law enforcement asks you to leave, you should comply.
  7. What happens next will vary from sit-in to sit-in! Some of you will get to talk to you MoC. If so, congratulations! Your sit-in was a success. Follow the same guidelines that listed above for talking to the staff. If not, don’t worry! Your sit-in will still be successful, as long as you stick to the agreements you made during the planning process. If a staffer asks you to leave, you can say something like: “I understand why you're asking us to leave, but this is our Senator's office and (s)he works for us. We will be happy to leave as soon as our concerns have been addressed." Stick with your plan: leave under the circumstances you agreed to beforehand. If something unexpected happens—if the staff threatens you, for example—your Action Coordinator should make a decision whether to exit and everyone should do so as a group. Even in these cases, gathering outside the office and publicizing what happened will still accomplish the most important part of this campaign—applying intense public pressure.
  8. Follow your exit strategy. We outlined above that it’s important for to stick your exit. Remember this, despite the stress of the event itself. Your optics here will determine how your action is viewed by the media and your followers on social media. Come out triumphant in your success or energized by your righteous anger. Make sure that you don’t leave behind any trash. The only thing you should leave behind are your written demands and an impression upon the staff in the office.

After the Action

Send photos and press clips of your event to stories@indivisibleguide.com! Plan a debrief meeting with your team. Use this time to discuss how it went and whether you would do anything differently. Be sure to celebrate your work and take a well-earned break.

DIE-INS

A die-in is a form of nonviolent direct action protest where participants publicly pretend to die to highlight a deadly problem. Its origins are hard to pin down, but it was notably used to powerful effect by ACT UP during the 1980s AIDS crisis and more recently by the Black Lives Matter movement during the Ferguson protests. This tactic is most powerful if done at the closest district office of an MoC, or at a public or private event at which the MoC is in attendance. This is a tactic designed to attract attention from passersby and people in positions of power, and can be used to disrupt business as usual at a problematic institution. It holds most power if media attend the event and/or if photos and video are shared to social media.

Before the Action

Call an emergency team meeting or gather with key folks who will be part of the die-in. At your meeting:

  1. Have everyone sign in!
  2. Thank everyone for attending on short notice and remind everyone why we’re here:
    • Give the TrumpCare status update
    • Explain our overall goal and strategy for the campaign, as well as what a die-in is and why we’re doing it
  3. Tell everyone the time and location of the die-in (and if possible, where to park for it).
  4. Pass around a sign-up sheet, collecting the contact information of everyone who is available to participate in the event, and who is willing to “die-in.”
  5. Designate key roles:
    • Main speaker (will speak into bullhorn or microphone and introduce storytellers)
    • Someone to give a signal that it is time to die-in
    • A responsible person who will make sure the art makes it to your location
    • Photographer/videographer (this is really important; without photos and video, the die-in might as well not have happened)
    • Social Media Coordinator
    • Press Liaison
  6. Ask the room who has a story that they would be willing to share at the event, illustrating how people in your district rely on the Affordable Care Act.
    • One leader from your group should take these people aside and lead a storytelling exercise, where everyone writes out their ACA stories. Try and keep these to 500 words or less. Shorter is always better for media coverage, although of course be sensitive to people in this moment of pain.
  7. Those who will not share stories, cannot make it to the event, and those who will attend but cannot die-in should begin the art efforts.
    • Be creative!
    • Some suggestions:
      • Make cardboard tombstones for every dead constituent in the action.
      • Make a banner that can be seen from a distance. Use bold colors. If you want to make it look professional, use a projector to project letters or a picture onto your surface, then trace your image in pencil and paint inside the lines.
      • If anyone has sewing skills, they can make a grim reaper costume. These are also pretty easy to find at costume shops.
      • Make tissue paper wreaths or bouquets for the deceased constituents.
      • Make enough picket signs so that there are no empty-handed participants in the die-in.
      • Make sure that your art calls out your MoC by name wherever possible (this will make your target clear in photographs of the action!).
      • Be creative and don’t underestimate the power of humor and theater in direct action.
  8. Those who will die-in should be asked to stay an extra 20 to 30 minutes at the meeting to practice.
    • Decide together how everyone will know it is time to lie down.
      • Will someone raise a hand? Some other nonverbal cue?
      • Will one designated person announce that it is time?
    • Practice sharing stories and lying down when the signal is given. Have someone roleplay as a disgruntled staffer, a Trump supporter, a confused bystander, or anyone else who might throw you off. Is everyone still lying down on time and at once?
    • Write/practice your chants! Try to project your voice.
      • For example: “Don’t take away our ACA!”
    • Make sure everyone agrees on how long you will stay on the ground. No one should be forced to stay longer than they are comfortable with, but everyone dispersing at random could compromise the effectiveness and appearance of the action.

At the Action

  1. All people in key roles should meet 45 minutes in advance. Bring snacks and water, assemble any art pieces that need assembly, test any technology, make reminder calls to everyone who signed up to attend, and begin to get in position.
  2. Meet outside the event or district office. Once everyone has gathered, the Main Speaker should state clearly why you all are there, and that many people in your district will be affected by this vote.
  3. The Social Media Coordinator should record, live-tweet and/or Facebook-live the entire experience.
    • Make sure that you are recording and taking photos horizontally, not vertically. It really helps the video get shared and makes it usable for press.
    • Be sure to tag your Member of Congress.
    • Be sure to tag @IndivisibleTeam on Twitter, so that we see and can share your action.
    • Post photos of the action.
  4. Storytellers should stand in a line next to the speaker, so they can easily pass the microphone or bullhorn to share their stories. You may want to start with some group chanting.
  5. At the appropriate time, someone will give the signal and participants will die-in and stay in place as long as possible (or for the agreed upon period of time). You may wish to have a 30 second moment of silence while people are on the ground; after that point, people who are “dead” should remain silent but the Speaker/Storytellers should start speaking.
  6. Anyone who is unable to lie down should stay in place during the die-in, holding signs and, when appropriate, participating in chants.
  7. When the die-in ends, everyone should clean up and leave quickly. You may also wish to end with some chants. The mood is somber, so be aware of media and social media coverage before you assume things are finished. But do regroup off-site and congratulate yourselves!
  8. Leaders should plan a debrief meeting.
  9. Send your stories, pictures, and best practices to stories@indivisibleguide.com.

Optional:

  • Bring a bullhorn or portable microphone.
  • Agree on a dress code. Wearing the same color creates a strong visual impact, makes it clear you are together, and looks great in photos.
  • Collect all of the constituent stories that you can, and deliver them in a package to your MoC. This is a great way to incorporate the stories of folks who couldn’t attend.
  • Make funeral bouquets or wreaths out of tissue paper.

Note: Familiarize yourself with our resource A Note on Police Encounters in case you are stopped by the police at your event.