Since Donald Trump was elected President, frustrated voters have been calling their representatives to protest everything from travel bans to cabinet nominations. But learning how to make those calls can be tricky. Kamila Kudelska takes a closer look at what it’s like to make the call.
KUDELSKA 1: Greg Taubman was so upset by the presidential results, he’s dedicating four hours every week to train people like Chia Morita in a midtown artist studio. They’re looking online to find her who her representative is.
TAUBMAN 1: Good so the only person who overlaps both is David Schweikert so that would make me think David Schweikert is your guy.
KUDELSKA 2: Chie is from Arizona. She’s lived in New York for a couple of years but still votes in Arizona. So Republican David Schweikert is her congressman. Taubman quickly goes over a script with Morita.
MORITA 1: What’s the benefit of putting the Trump fact in?
TAUBMAN: Oh, it puts it in a different context. It’s spicey. It’s fun to say. Whatever gets you charged about it.
MORITA: Ok, write it down. I guess and we’ll see.
KUDELSKA 3: Once the script is done. It’s time to call.
SAM: Hi, you’ve reached David Schweikert office. This is Sam.
MORITA: Hi Sam, my name is Chia. I’m a constituent of Mr. Schweikert’s and I’m calling to voice an opinion. If that’s okay?
SAM: Yeah, absolutely.
MORITA: I’m calling bc its imp to me that Mr S act to prevent cutting any NEA funds from the federal budget.
KUDELSKA 4: Brad Usher has been on the receiving end of call likes this a lot. He’s the chief of staff for NY State Senator Liz Krueger. He says it’s stressful to answer calls all day on complaints that are in their control or not.
USHER 1: Again best that we can do is try to provide them with accurate information about whatever is going on and/or making sure the constituents feel that they are being heard and getting a chance to express their opinions.
KUDELSKA 5: He says beyond letting the constituent know they’ve been heard, there’s an even trickier art: how to politely end the call.
USHER 2: One of the important lessons to learn in this job is how to end a conversations. Sometimes that is really hard.
PORI 1: As someone on the other end of the phone, it’s so annoying.
KUDELSKA 6: Bella Pori has been working on a website to help constituents make calls. A key to success: keep the phone calls brief.
PORI 2: When someone is like Jeff Sessions in 1982. It’s like no get to the point. Are you pro or anti sessions. So our scripts are like Hi, my name is Bella. I live in Brooklyn. I’m calling to ask the senator to vote no on Jeff Sessions. And then there is a sentence like Jeff Sessions would have policies that would be harmful to women and minorities but you should be getting to your concern, your name and where you live in the first fifteen seconds.
KUDELSKA 7: In the same vain, her group is focusing on three issues: health care, the federal budget and blocking cabinet appointments. More than 1,000 people from almost all 50 states have subscribed to Pori’s weekly email.
Back in midtown, Chie Morita is finishing her first call with Sam, Congressman Schweikert’s staff member.
MORITA 4: Cave Creek, Arizona.
Sam: Perfect I will def pass this message along. Thank you for calling.
Morita: Thank you.
KUDELSKA 8: Taubman is right there to give her some feedback.
TAUBMAN 2: I think you respected their time and it sounded like they were happy to hear from you. They picked on the first ring which says Schweickert line is not that busy now so if you wanted to call back about other things…(laughter).
KUDELSKA 9: Morita is visibly relieved to be done with her first call.
Morita: it’s still really nerve racking. I mean I know it’s their job to be there. But as as someone that has had to receive calls about people voicing opinions about things it’s often difficult to get those calls day and day out.
KUDELSKA 10: In fact it was so hard, she’s done for the day. She says she thinks she will try calling again another day.
Kamila Kudelska, Columbia Radio News.
Greg Taubman is founder of 4hours4years.