Your senators and representatives are in their home districts for the entire month of August to listen to you, their constituents through issue forums, town hall meetings, and other public events. In many of these settings, elected officials will take questions from the audience, which gives you a chance to put them in the hot seat on the issues that matter to women and families.
No issues are more central than the ones that affect our livelihoods: We need a new economic agenda for women and families with progress on issues such as equal pay, work/life balance, and child care. When women succeed, America succeeds—here are three sample questions you can ask your elected officials to send them back to Washington, D.C., with a to-do list!
Now that you know what questions to ask, here are some tips for being successful:
- June 10 was the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act, but this keystone law is in bad shape. In 2011, women working full time, year round, were still paid 77 cents on average for every dollar paid to men. Even after controlling for factors known to affect earnings, a 7 percent pay gap persists between male and female college graduates just one year after graduation. America's women and families need the Paycheck Fairness Act to update our nation's equal pay laws: What is your position on the Paycheck Fairness Act, and what do you intend to do when you return to Washington in September to help close the wage gap?
- For too many American workers, the choice between their health and their job is one they are forced to face every time they or family members get sick. That's because nearly half of all private-sector workers in this country—millions of Americans—don't have the right to earn paid sick days. The Healthy Families Act would provide full-time employees the right to earn seven paid sick days a year to be used for their own medical needs or to tend to the medical needs of a family member. Will you co-sponsor the Healthy Families Act when you return to Washington?
- In honor of Mother's Day, AAUW released a new research report in May which shines a light on the more than 1 million student mothers in community colleges and focuses on what they and other women in community colleges need to succeed. Child care services are imperative for helping student mothers. Do you support an expansion of the Campus Childcare Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) program, and what additional steps will you take to support student mothers?
- Call the in-district office to confirm when and where the town hall meeting will be. You can look up your representative and the contact information for the in-district office on house.gov. Similar information for your senators can be found on senate.gov.
- Find out where the legislator stands ahead of time on your issue. The legislator’s website is a great place to start; then move to nonpartisan voter education resources like votesmart.org and AAUW Action Fund’s Congressional Voting Record.
- Write out your question in advance! Even if you’re not reading off the card, it helps to be prepared.
- Go as a group, so you can support each other—and so someone can take pictures and video of you asking your question! If your whole branch goes to the town hall meeting, you could wear the same color shirt, pass out AAUW stickers, and try to ask the same question—or two questions if you’re lucky.
- Arrive early, and ask questions early—be confident and assertive in taking a place at the microphone for questions. Remember: Your question is important and deserves an answer!
- Always identify yourself as a constituent and AAUW member.
- If you aren’t able to ask your question during the event, try to be along the legislator’s exit path. Shake his or her hand and try to ask your question then. You can also provide the question to the media, or ask the lawmaker’s staff for an in-district meeting during the August work period.
Last but certainly not least: Tell us how it went! Tweet the answer to your question, and fill out our easy-to-use report-back form.