In March, Philadelphia DSA members showed up in droves with healthcare workers, community members, and elected leaders to pass a Philadelphia city-wide resolution supporting the Medicare for All Act of 2017 and affirming universal access to healthcare as a human right. This victory showed that in a city where the poverty rate is over 26%, city council leaders learned where to stand when it comes to universal healthcare. To move a national campaign to win Medicare for All, we need to build support from a broad range of cities and municipalities across the country. With some research, planning, and lobbying, you could work with city council members to pass a resolution of support in your city too!
What does a City Council Resolution Accomplish?
- Moves Public Opinion: Successful resolutions can move public support in favor of universal healthcare. When you are canvassing, talking to community members, or recruiting people to the campaign, you can point to this resolution to build credibility towards your campaign.
- Builds Momentum: Since single-payer healthcare is a long-term goal, it is important to build tangible benchmarks along the way! If we can move more elected leaders to sign on and vote for Medicare for All, we are one step closer to winning. It also keeps members engaged in the campaign when we can celebrate victories along the way.
- Builds Knowledge and Skills in your Chapter: Throughout the process, you will have the opportunity to train DSA members and develop leaders around organizing, lobbying, and other skills that will help build your chapter. This is also an opportunity to teach members about the political process and actors in your city.
- Builds Relationships in your City: Through the process of working with other communities and identifying common issues, you have the chance to build lasting relationships with organizations and leaders with shared interests.
- Flexes Your Power as a Chapter: Working on a tangible and public campaign to pass a city council resolution gives your chapter more name recognition and clout. Remember, whether the resolution passes this time or not, the process of engaging DSA and community members in this campaign will help set your chapter up for the next victory!
Before you introduce a resolution, this campaign will involve gathering information specific to your city, building public support, and engaging members. You can create three main groups to carry out the groundwork of the campaign: Communications & Research, District Committees, and Coalition Building. You’ll want at least one (but ideally two or three) lead organizers to focus on each of the following:
Communications & Research
- This team will focus on gathering and citing data, drafting a resolution, developing letters of support like this open letter, and other materials you need to build support for the campaign.
- Organizing for a City Council Resolution will allow you to build grassroots support for a national Medicare For All program, while also building infrastructure in your city districts for future campaigns. The objective of the District Committees is to build infrastructure, mobilize members, and put pressure on the elected officials in each district.
- Point people in each district will lead a group of active organizers for each council district in your city. They will organize district-specific strategy meetings, lead recruitment efforts of District Committees, and provide support to point people in each district.
- This committee will focus on outreach to other local organizations to support the campaign. They will also recruit key community leaders, healthcare workers, affected patients, etc., to support the campaign and speak in favor of the resolution.
Passing the Resolution
Draft a Resolution
- Your Communications & Research Group has been gathering data on the impact of our current healthcare system on residents of your city. Now it’s time to put that data to use in the form of a compelling City Council Resolution (see the example resolution from Philly DSA here).
- The main ingredients of this resolution draft will be:
- A Whereas section that identifies the issues with our current system, the 5 principles of Medicare For All, and an acknowledgement of Senator Sanders’ Medicare For All Act of 2017.
- A “Resolved” section that announces support for the bill and commits to working toward its passing.
- Once you identify a Resolution Author - your next step below! - you can work with them on tweaking something based on the political climate of your city.
Identify an Author to Introduce
- Research Your City Council: Before you can introduce a resolution, you have to know where your city council members stand so you know who is a natural ally, who you may need to move, and who is just a lost cause. You can review their voting records, campaign contributors, and endorsements to put together a profile. Your Communications and Research or District Committee leaders can spearhead this.
- Identify Your M4A City Council Champion: Use your research and relationships to identify the member of City Council who will a) see the political value in supporting Medicare For All, and/or b) see DSA as a significant organization in your city to work with. Maybe you have a member of your city council who has supported other local working-class issues such as public education, labor unions, raising the minimum wage, progressive taxation, etc. If so, get in contact with their office to meet with them to discuss introducing the draft resolution at an upcoming City Council meeting. If NOT, then you’ll need to do the work of building a public campaign and support to move a city council member towards Medicare for All. Gather as many letters of support as possible, and use your lobby visits to identify your champion to introduce the resolution.
Build City Council Support: Ideally you’ll want some time in between the resolution introduction and the vote. This will allow your organizers to show the power of your local to influence your elected officials to support a resolution already on the docket. It will also mobilize members to make phone calls and write letters urging their elected officials to vote for the resolution. You can work with your District Committees to build support from City Council members until you have the votes you need.
Tactics for pressuring your council members to support the resolution may include:
- Call-In Campaign: Use social media, email, and text banking to send city council member phone numbers for a low-ask action from your members.
- Letter-Writing Campaign: Through your district committees, encourage residents to write letters of support to their council members for the resolution. You can ask folks to mail their letters, or you can collect letters physically or electronically to deliver to city council during a lobby visit. Take a look at this sample letter that was created from this form and template for Philly DSA’s recent campaign.
Lobbying: This is a great opportunity to teach your chapter members about the political process. You can enlist chapter members who may be familiar with political lobbying, or work off these best practices to put together a lobbying training for members and have your District Committees organize the lobby visits. Be sure to have the group show up early so they can run through the agenda and feel prepared. Every lobby visit will look different, but you can follow this general script and tweak it based on your target. Remember, lobbying is just the first step; if lobby visits just don’t cut it, escalate with more public pressure tactics. Here are some lobbying best practices:
- Identify your legislator’s position and knowledge of the subject first.
- Establish our credentials as an organization.
- Make a narrative connection.
- Make an ask.
- Have a facilitator and a game plan going into it.
- Leave behind more information if they want to learn more. Here is a good place to start to find resources!
- It takes practice! Don’t be discouraged if the meeting doesn’t go your way. Every meeting is a learning experience to help with the next one!
- Publicity: Use your press contacts to get stories about the resolution and try to place some local letters to the editor or op-eds to build support. After the event, you should also put out a press release that either announces the victory or calls out specific council members who should have supported the resolution but didn’t.
- Open Letter: Your Coalition Building Committee can work on building support from other organizations and elected leaders. Remember to engage with their issues too! Coalition building is a long-term process that you want to continue even after this resolution. You can also engage your DSA members and community members with a letter writing campaign to city council, publicizing the resolution, town halls, and other tactics that will help you build support going into your lobby visits. Check out this sample open letter from Philly DSA.
City Council Public Comment & Vote
- Build Excitement: This is the day you’ve been waiting for! Your main focus should be on making a spectacle and steering the messaging. A city council resolution vote is not an inherently exciting event. You’ll see resolutions that authorize the use of public space by community groups, celebrate a little league team’s winning record, and give symbolic pseudonyms to city streets. These resolutions may pass rapidly with a simple voice vote, no opposition, and no record of yeas and nays. It’s up to your DSA chapter to bring the excitement!
- Turnout: The first step in making a spectacle of the vote is turnout. Use phone banking, social media, email, and text blasts to get as many DSA members and community members to your council chambers on the day of the vote. Plan ahead to communicate a specific meeting place and time, in addition to researching the details of what your council will and won’t allow in the chambers. Make sure you have plenty of M4A t-shirts and posters on hand for those who attend in order to really paint the city (hall) red.
- Speakers & Messaging: In addition to creating a spectacle on vote day, your second focus will be to steer the messaging of support. There will likely be a limited amount of time available for public comment before the vote, and you’ll want to make sure that multiple viewpoints and talking points are covered by your stack of speakers. Gather your top 3-5 speakers on or before vote day to coordinate your talking points and ensure a diversity of experience. Consider including speakers who are patients affected by our current system, community leaders, nurses, doctors, healthcare workers, and/or labor leaders. Help guide the speakers to share personal stories that speak to the moral, ethical, political, or economic arguments for M4A.