Virtual Lobby Days…Make a Difference from the Comfort of Your Own Home

It’s time to kick it up a notch, as Emeril would say. Tomorrow, Thursday, November 6, is a Virtual Lobby Day, designed to encourage the passage of the Civil Rights Tax Relief Act (House version/Senate version). Jointly cosponsored by Workplace Fairness and our allied organization, the National Employment Lawyers Association, Virtual Lobby Days are designed to ensure that members of Congress hear from thousands of their constitutents in a single day about how important that it is to pass the CRTRA this year, before Congress adjourns in the next month or so. It’s difficult for most people to make it to Washington, DC to personally lobby Congress, but anyone can take five minutes or less to contact his or her member of Congress. Our Action Center makes it just that easy — it’s the next best thing to being there in person!

Why is this legislation so important? The current tax law is unfair to workers. In many states, workers who win their employment discrimination cases can expect to be taxed on the attorneys’ fee portion of their award, money that goes directly to their attorneys. In addition, where a lump-sum award is meant to compensate for years of lost salary and benefits, these workers can look forward to paying unreasonably high taxes on the award. The IRS allows the award to bump the worker up into a much higher tax bracket than had the money been paid out in salary over many years of discrimination-free service to his or her employer. The Civil Rights Tax Relief Act would remedy these unfair tax policies!

How can you help? On Thursday, November 6th 2003, Workplace Fairness and NELA intend to blanket Senators and Representatives with letters, faxes, phone calls and emails from individuals across America, urging them to support this important legislation. It’s easy to participate in Virtual Lobby Days from home. Just call or e-mail your Senators and Representative on Thursday November 6 to ask that your member of Congress support and cosponsor the CRTRA. You can call your Senator by dialing the Senate Operator at (202) 224-3121 and asking for your Senator’s office, and can reach your Representative by dialing the House Operator at (202) 225-3121 and asking for your Representative’s office. To get started, please go to our Virtual Lobby Day page, Workers in Action for Tax Fairness, and read about the key points to be addressed by the proposed law. If you need more information, please go to our site’s Fair Taxes page, where you’ll find even more information about this issue, including the key talking points about the bill.

From that point, you can either send a message to your members of Congress directly from our site via e-mail, or you can use the information listed there for your talking points when you phone Congressional offices. For House offices, please let the person with whom you speak know that you are asking that HR 1155 be included with any tax legislation to be considered this year; for Senate offices, please let the person with whom you speak know that you are asking that S 557 be included with any tax legislation to be considered this year. You should also ask your Representative or Senator to become a bill cosponsor, if he or she is not already a cosponsor of the bill, which you can check here: House cosponsors/Senate cosponsors If you contact Congressional offices via telephone, please let us know the outcome by e-mailing Workplace Fairness with information about who you spoke to and the Congressperson’s position on the bill (if you were told that information during the conversation).

While it is important to have as many participants in Virtual Lobby Days as we can, we especially need residents of the following states, who all have senators on the Senate Finance Committee, to participate:

Republican Members:

Grassley (Iowa), Hatch (Utah), Nickles (Oklahoma), Lott (Mississippi), Snowe (Maine), Kyl (Arizona), Thomas (Wyoming), Santorum (Pennsylvania), Frist (Tennessee), Smith (Oregon), Bunning (Kentucky).

Democratic Members

Democrats: Baucus (Montana), Rockefeller (West Virginia), Daschle (South Dakota), Breaux (Louisiana), Conrad (North Dakota), Graham (Florida), Jeffords (Independent – Vermont–aligned with the Democrats on the committee for representation and (generally) voting purposes), Bingaman (New Mexico), Kerry (Massachusetts), and Lincoln (Arkansas).

And if one of the listed Representatives represents your Congressional district, we really need you as well to contact these key Representatives on the House Ways and Means Committee:

Republican Members:

Rep. Clay Shaw (FL-22), Rep. Rob Portman (OH-2), Rep. Jerry Weller (IL-11), Rep. Kevin Brady (TX-8), and Rep. Paul Ryan (WI-1).

While the Civil Rights Tax Relief Act competes with thousands of other bills for the attention and support of Congress, we are confident that we are on track for success. In fact, the full Senate included the attorneys’ fee provision of the bill in its version of the President’s Tax Bill that passed earlier this year! Although this was progress, it was unfortunately dropped from the final legislation. Since that time, thanks to a major push by organizations such as Workplace Fairness & NELA, in conjunction with support from such quarters as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Bar Association, our chances of passing the CRTRA are now greater than ever.

If you haven’t done so already, please also take the time to sign up for email alerts on the Civil Rights Tax Relief Act and other Workplace Fairness legislative efforts. Sign up here. You can also help us spread the word, and involve supportive friends and family members, by using our Tell-a-Friend feature. If you’re an employee rights attorney, and would like to learn more about NELA’s efforts or send your Action Alert through NELA, visit NELA’s Virtual Lobby Day page.

Even though you are not in Washington, DC, you can play a very key role in supporting the efforts of those who are there lobbying. Just imagine the impact in Congressional offices when the office is simultaneously flooded with calls and e-mails about the very same issue. It definitely lends credence to those who are there lobbying on behalf of this issue when they say that they’re only one of many who care about this issue. Even if you’ve already sent a letter, it’s time to reinforce the importance of getting this legislation passed NOW, before Congress goes home for the holidays. The time is now, so please help us today!

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Madeline Messa

Madeline Messa is a 3L at Syracuse University College of Law. She graduated from Penn State with a degree in journalism. With her legal research and writing for Workplace Fairness, she strives to equip people with the information they need to be their own best advocate.