Activists Win Coordinated Wage Boost in D.C., Nearby Counties

Source: Katie Ashmore and Monica Kamen, Labor Notes, February 21, 2014

…. One lesson learned: take advantage of political moments and opportunities. The organizing across the country had brought the minimum wage issue to the fore and created an urgency we were able to use locally.

Also, D.C. election season was beginning in fall 2013—the majority of councilmembers were running for reelection (or for mayor), making them more vulnerable to our pressure.

Working as a coalition, with groups on both sides of the border and groups working for both issues, proved essential. We coordinated testimony. We enjoyed increased staff capacity and resources. Our turnout efforts doubled when we planned actions together. ….

…. How We Kept the Pressure Up

Coordinated call-in days. In the last month of the campaigns, the coalitions in Montgomery County and D.C. planned a series of call-in days.

Using a web service, Slottr.com, we had constituents sign up to call at a designated time. The calls came in to the council offices every five or 10 minutes during the work day.

We also signed up for a texting service called OhDontForget.com. Ten minutes before the caller was scheduled to call the councilmember, she would receive a text message with the phone number and a link to a call script.

We generated thousands of calls this way.

Coordinated testimony. During the hearings, the two coalitions coordinated their messages to present a strong united front.

This meant everyone who testified mentioned their support for both bills, and everyone hammered home the most important talking points, including refuting the other side.

Confronted councilmembers in public at every opportunity. Volunteers tracked where councilmembers were making public appearances and arrived with a group of people wearing stickers about the bills.

When election season started, this meant showing up at candidate forums to ask questions about our issues. We raised our profile and got councilmembers on record voicing their support.

By the end of the campaign, the coalition scheduled visits to all the city councilmembers almost daily. Groups of workers would go prepared to tell personal stories about why a minimum wage increase and paid sick days would benefit their families….