SHRM A Team – HR Constituents on District Meetings with Lawmakers

The SHRM Advocacy Team has been developed by SHRM Government Affairs as a way to assist HR Advocates — professionals like you — in making their voices heard on public policy issues impacting the workplace. It’s time that policymakers — both in Washington and in state capitals across the country — understand the role HR plays in today’s workplace. The SHRM Advocacy Team is a crucial component of SHRM’s advocacy efforts, and works with you to advance the interests of the HR profession at both the federal and state levels. As a member of the SHRM Advocacy Team, you will join the ranks of other HR Advocates committed to moving the HR profession forward, and be the voice of our profession.

Here's a recap of some of the most recent SHRM A-Team activities:

Georgia- 10/10/13

The 5th SHRM GA DC Fly In had been scheduled for several months. Little did we know that our trip, planned for October 1, would coincide with the government shutdown! When eight of us from the Peach State arrived on September 30 we weren’t sure if we would be able to see the seven legislators or their staff with whom we had made appointments. Our biggest concern was whether we would be able to even get into the government buildings. Even if they were letting people in, we had a pretty good idea that they would allow only essential personnel through the security checkpoints. There were three in our group who had not participated in a SHRM Hill visit before, and we were concerned that they would be sorely disappointed.

Feeling optimistic, we set out early to hit the Hill. We approached the Rayburn Building with confidence, rehearsing the line, “We have an appointment with Congressman Barrow.” To our delight, the security guards were out in full force and let us in with a smile.

Our first meeting was with Congressman John Barrow of the 12th District. He shared that it had been a late night for him, with meetings that didn’t end until 1 a.m. He explained that his staff had shown up for work as normal even though they weren’t being paid. He expressed his frustration over the inability to get a budget passed. He moved past the subject and invited us to begin the discussion that we had scheduled. He listened to our positions on both immigration and tax reform. Because E-Verify is required by law in Georgia, our group was able to provide an accurate perspective on the strengths and weaknesses of this system.

On one of our following visits, Congressman Jack Kingston of the 10th District was very interested to hear about E-Verify from the Savannah chapter. In fact, he gave us an assignment: to survey SHRM members in our chapters about the pros and cons of the current system so that he could share these with his colleagues.

We met with several staffers and two other members of Congress that day, including Senator Johnny Isakson and Congressman John Lewis. In each office we saw loyal staff who continued to perform their duties despite working without pay. All expressed their regret and frustration over the government shutdown and shared the hope that the stalemate would be resolved quickly. We heard an interesting perspective in each office and took an unofficial poll on how long the shutdown would last.

At the end of the day we were thrilled that we had met with so many people even with a government shutdown. We accomplished our goals to meet with as many legislators from Georgia as possible, share our perspective on two key issues and build on our relationship with lawmakers so that we can continue to be a resource. It was exciting to be a witness to history in the making. We couldn’t have asked for a better day!

Sally Roberts
Human Resources Director
Augusta, Georgia

Pennsylvania - 9/27/13

As a member of the Delaware SHRM chapter, I live in a multistate region that represents HR professionals and employers in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. My home in Landenberg in the Keystone State of Pennsylvania is in close proximity to Philadelphia, so I made district office visits to my elected officials a priority this summer during the Congressional recess.

While the A-Team’s focus for the summer recess was meeting with members of the House to obtain support for immigration reform, I chose to visit both House and Senate offices. In all three meetings, as a way to establish rapport, I mentioned my recent visits to legislators’ offices on Capitol Hill during the March 2013 Legislative Conference.

In the offices of Senators Bob Casey and Patrick Toomey, I met with district staffers and made my introduction of SHRM the headlining message. I presented the Pennsylvania SHRM fact sheet to portray the strength of our membership of individual professionals who ensure compliance with federal workplace laws each day as part of helping employers manage human capital. I also provided contact information and invited the staff of both Senators to think of SHRM as a resource on public-policy issues such as immigration, health care reform, workplace flexibility and employee benefits. After introducing SHRM, I outlined its position on immigration reform. Both district staffers of Senators Casey and Toomey expressed interest in learning about the partnership solutions for immigration reform proposed by SHRM and its affiliate, the Council for Global Immigration and acknowledged this issue as a topic of interest.

Given the anticipation of a potential post recess House vote on immigration reform, I was thrilled to obtain a meeting with Representative Patrick Meehan in his Springfield, Pa., office. I still used the SHRM introduction to kick off the meeting but focused on bringing the Society’s position on immigration reform to life through my personal experiences with the hiring process and, especially, my background in immigration case management. I presented the SHRM-Council for Global Immigration solution of doing employment verification in one step, instead of the current three-step process, and highlighted the Trusted Employer Program as an example of efficiency without cost—by simply streamlining the work. Representative Meehan’s thoughtful, detailed questions confirmed that gaining legislative support for immigration reform is not a simple request, and our ability to extract the key elements and communicate them is essential! The resources that the SHRM government affairs department provided was a tremendous help, which included a high level of detail and specific talking-points to help drive home the message.

Shortly after I left Representative Meehan’s office, I heard him speaking live about Syria on the local news. The reality is that current events may alter the timing of a vote on immigration reform and the A-Team may need to prepare for another round of legislative outreach to lawmakers and their respective staffs on this important topic to gain support for SHRM’s position. On behalf of the Delaware SHRM chapter, I am looking forward to the challenge to ensure that the changes to E-verify and the adoption of a Trusted Employer program become a reality.

Julia Orescan, CCP, SPHR
Delaware SHRM Chapter Legislative Chair

Alabama - 9/20/13

Although the focus of this week’s blog is meeting with lawmakers at home in the district, I wanted to talk a bit about Alabama SHRM’s day on the Hill this past week in Washington, D.C. A group of HR professionals from across the state travel to D.C. twice a year to meet with all of our Members of Congress and/or their staffs about current issues affecting or potentially affecting HR and our employees (their constituents). This past week was an exciting time to be in the capital—so many issues jostling for the forefront, a horizon of multiple crises—people were indeed engaged. In fact, the whole city seemed energized. There were protesters as well as at least a million bikers, and our trip included 9/11 and Friday the 13th.

We talked with House Members and their staff about the need for an amendment to H.R. 1772, to strengthen protection against identity theft in the employment verification process and to provide a safe harbor for employers who, in good faith, follow all required steps and use all provided tools. In every case there was good conversation and support for those sought-after provisions, and in several cases, a request to see a draft of this amendment as soon as possible. We came away with specific contacts to pass on to SHRM for this purpose. In the Senate we expressed our desire for the preservation of the current tax-treatment status of retirement benefits, especially 401(k)s, as Congress looks for additional revenue in the coming months.

It’s great to connect our efforts at home in the district with our visits to D.C. In more than one office we talked with individuals whom attendees had met at home. Last March, in fact, one district staff member traveled to the capital to join our meeting there. This past week, after discussing our chosen topics, they shared information with us about Syria, the looming debt ceiling, a possible government shutdown and further sequestration issues. We left feeling at least a little more “in the know” and a little more connected.

Along with allowing us to share our perspective on specific issues, provide facts about the impact of those issues and strengthen our connection with Members of Congress and their staff, these visits are about offering ourselves as a resource to lawmakers. Recently, we’ve been given the opportunity to provide a company to host a press conference for a House-bill-introduction announcement and to provide a person to testify at a House hearing and a Senate hearing. Outcomes like that make us keep coming back and cause us to smile really wide when they open their office door and say, “It’s so good to see you guys again.”

(Well, OK, sometimes it’s “y’all” instead of “you guys” . . . whatever.)

Juanita Phillips, SPHR
Alabama SHRM Co-director of Governmental Affairs

New Hampshire - 9/18/13

New Hampshire is the "Live Free or Die" state where we take our politics seriously. Whether you are talking about our New England tradition of town meetings or a citizen legislature (oldest legislative body meeting in the same statehouse chambers—with annual compensation of $300) or our access to candidates with our first in the nation presidential primary, the people of New Hampshire are used to and expect access to legislators, policymakers and enforcement agencies.

The A - Team was perfect for HR professionals in this state. We have four teams: one for each of our two U.S. senators and one for each of our two representatives.

While the crisis in Syria was a hot topic during Congressional District Days in August, we still met with the local staff from Senator Ayotte's and Representative Porter's offices. We talked about the practical implications of proposed immigration reform and, in particular, the issues related to widespread use of E-Verify. Our teams presented SHRM materials and talking points on E-Verify. The most valuable part of those materials was the solutions proposed by SHRM. In other words, we didn't just raise questions and concerns; we proposed a fix, and that was a welcomed change for the legislative staffs.

Perhaps the most important part of these meetings was establishing a relationship and a connection to the real life of workplaces in New Hampshire. Our team members come from large and small organizations—from retail to high-tech companies, from manufacturing to not-for-profit and private- to public-sector workplaces. Our team members shared anecdotes that proved to be very useful to our hosts. These legislators recognize the benefits and value of this information. They also recognize the need to be accountable to this large and wide-reaching advocacy group.

In keeping with our “Live Free or Die” tradition of insistence on access to and accountability from our lawmakers in this state, to paraphrase lines from the A-Team of the popular TV series, "The A-Team [HR professionals] are here to do what needs to be done," and "I [we] pity the fools” [who don't listen to the practical impact of proposed or existing workplace laws].

Jim Reidy
NH State HR Council Legislative Affairs Chair and enthusiastic A-Team member

The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.
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