A Federal employee union is responsible for representing its members before their employer. Besides working for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Department of Commerce, NWSEO members, in effect, also work at the direction of the Members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. The United States Congress determines both the mission and means available to carry out the mission of the agency. But the Members of Congress need to be kept up-to-date on the specifics of what services NOAA employees provide for the American public. Basically, NOAA is scientific agency that provides both regulatory guidance and direct service to the American public in the oceanic and atmospheric scientific fields.
NWSEO alone, no other organization in the country, represents the interests of the federal employees directly involved in these scientific endeavors and promotes the professionalism of the services provided in the oceanic and atmospheric scientific fields.
Therefore, NWSEO has established the following legislative priorities:
For more particulars on current legislative priorities of the NWSEO, please visit our web file on Legislative Activity
NWSEO members can rely on the following resources to fulfill our legislative goals:
1. An office near Capitol Hill for Members of Congress to contact officers of the union on matters that arise during the legislative session.
2. A General Counsel who is knowledgeable on the laws, rules and regulations regarding the NOAA and federal administrative procedures, as well as on legislative construction.
3. A Government Relations Consultant who is known to both NOAA agency heads and the staff and Members of the House Science Committee, the Senate Commerce Committee, and the Appropriation Committees of both bodies.
4. A Separate Segregated Fund (the NWSEO-PAC) that provides NWSEO members with the opportunity to contribute political campaign funds so that NWSEO can assist those Members of Congress who support the NOAA.
5. The most important resource NWSEO has is you. The union writes letters and testifies in committee hearings every year. But the reason we succeed in our legislative program is because our officers and members are the doing the work necessary back home in the Congressmen's home districts or in the Senators' states.
NWSEO has formed a legislative committee and has retained the services of a Government Relations Consultant to help establish legislative activities and procedures and to coordinate communications among our employees and with members of Congress. Every federal employee has an absolute right to contact a member of Congress. Any contact should be done on your own time and may not be done using government equipment, computers, phones, etc. You should clearly state that the opinions expressed are your personal views and do not represent any official agency position.
After any congressional is made, it would be useful to inform the NWSEO leadership or the Government Relations Consultant of the nature of the contact in order to avoid unnecessary confusion or duplication of effort.
This manual is a guide to help you work in your Congressman's district and Senator's state. NOAA employees can visit Congressional offices and educate the local staff on important the work of NOAA.
Writing to Your Senators and Representatives
Your Impact As A Constituent
You Represent More Than Yourself
To members of Congress you represent your family, your fellow employees, and people who depend on the NWS, as well as yourself. In your letter emphasize that your views are also held by others.
Representatives and Senators have one or more district offices in addition to their primary office in Washington, D.C. The district office is usually involved in problem solving, such as inquiring about loans, finding lost social security checks, resolving military problems, or other difficulties that individuals have with the federal government. Generally, the Washington, D.C. office is involved in national issues and voting on legislation.
Writing To A Senator
Use the following format as a guide:
The salutation is "Dear Senator (last name):" All Senators have the same zip code: 20510.
Writing To A Representative
The salutation is "Dear Congressman (last name):" or "Dear Congresswoman (last name):". All representatives have the same zip code: 20515.
It is not necessary to use a building name or room number when writing to members of Congress in Washington, DC.
Where To Find Office Addresses
If you want to visit a member of Congress in your area, your local phone book should have your Senators' and Representative's district offices listed under "United States Government". If you need assistance on finding an address, contact NWSEO's national office.
Include Your Return Address
How To Write Your Letter
1. Identify yourself as a constituent. In the opening sentence, identify yourself as a constituent. More attention will be paid to your opinion if you are a voter. If you are writing in an official capacity on behalf of the NWSEO, say so.
2. Keep to one subject. Limiting yourself to one subject will increase the force of your argument. It will also make it easier for the public official to act on your request.
3. Be brief. While you should fully explain your views, a long letter may be set aside. Keep your letter to one or two pages. Avoid using technical jargon and acrnums without first explaining what the initials stand for.
4. Get to the Point. It is best to summarize your position in one or two sentences in the beginning of the letter. This technique helps the legislator or his staff identify why you are writing.
5. Be factual. Do not be rude or threatening. This will only antagonize your reader. Courteous mail is more effective. Make your points clearly and back them up with facts or figures.
6. Personalize your letter. When writing about a legislative proposal, explain how it affects you, your work, or your family. If possible, give examples that illustrate your viewpoint.
7. Do not assume your reader knows the issue. Refer to the specific bill number you are writing about (if you know it) and fully explain your views. If you have dealt with another official on the matter, mention it in your letter, because the official to whom you are writing may want to coordinate with the other official.
8. Ask for specific actions. When you ask the legislator for his or her help, be very specific about what it is you want, for example: to vote for or against a bill; to take action on a problem; or to express an opinion about the subject of your letter. This will help the office holder or the staff know what should be done.
9. Avoid form letters. Sometimes organizations send a sample letter to their members much like the example shown at the end of this chapter. Copying a sample letter verbatim makes it obvious your letter originated at a single source. Use your own words and address each letter individually rather than using photocopies. Mailgrams or telegrams are less effective than a personal letter.
10. Who reads your letters? Each member of Congress receives thousands of letters. Obviously, not every letter is read personally by the elected official. Most are read and acted upon by staff. But, your letter could be read by your Senator or Representative so write accordingly.
Do not forget to write a thank-you note after a matter in which you have an interest has been resolved. A thank-you note makes a good impression, and you will be remembered.
The following sample letter illustrates the suggestions made here.
Honorable John Smith
Dear Congressman Smith:
I am a member of the National Weather Service Employees Organization, (NWSEO), and a resident of your district. Over the years I have been an active voter and wanted to take the time to ask for your support regarding H.R. 1234, a bill that affects the National Weather Service.
(The middle paragraphs describe H.R. 1234, and the status of the bill).
I urge you to vote for H.R. 1234, and assist me and the members of my organization. Thank you for your interest and support. .
Telephoning your Senators and Representative
Why Use The Phone?
One of the quickest ways to gain access to a legislator's office is to use the telephone. A call to your elected representative is a cost-effective, efficient method of communicating your views or requesting assistance. If you need help identifying the appropriate member, contact the NWSEO national office.
Where To Find The Right Phone Number
Most telephone directories have a listing under "Federal Government" for the district office(s) of Representatives and Senators. Most libraries have several books which list congressional telephone numbers in the reference section.
If you know the name of your Senators or Representative, you can call the U.S. Capitol Hill main switchboard for the Washington DC office number:(202) 224-3121 (Senate), or (202 225-3121 (House).
District Offices vs. Washington Offices
The district office usually is involved in problem solving, or other difficulties with the federal government. The Washington, D.C. office deals with national issues and voting on legislation.
The Best Time To Call
The best time to call a Washington, D.C. congressional office is before 10:00 a.m. If the member is not in the office, the staff can usually get a message to the member for a return phone call later during the day.
Who To Ask For?
Your phone calls to your elected official will be screened by the receptionist or secretary answering the phone. If you want to speak directly to the elected representative, be prepared to answer a series of questions from the staff before you gain access. A caller who knows someone on the staff, will usually be referred directly to that staff person. If you do not know a name, ask to speak to the person who deals with the issue you are calling about.
Always Identify Yourself
In your opening remarks, identify yourself as a constituent, a contributor, or personal friend of the elected representative (if applicable), or an NWSEO Union steward. More attention will be paid to your concerns if you are a voter.
Even if you have a personal relationship with the legislator, know his family, or have contributed to his campaign, you still may be "screened" by the receptionist. Do not be offended if you are screened.
Always Leave A Message
Many times your Senator or Representative will be attending a committee hearing, voting, or otherwise be unavailable when you call. Always leave a message and your phone number.
Visiting your Senators and Representative
A visit to the office of a Senator or Representative is usually more productive, and easiest to bring about, if it takes place in the local, or district office. Addresses for these offices can usually be found in the local phone book. Meetings in Washington, DC, can be faciliated by the NWSEO national office or by the Government Relations Consultant.
A few tips may be helpful: