Together We Can Make Meaningful Change

Friday, January 19, 2024
A yellow graphic with a cutout blob shape around the statue of liberty head and a red asterisk.
At ACLU-WA, we’re ready to make the most out of this year’s short legislative session with an agenda focused on building a more equitable, safe and just Washington for all.

But we need your help.

With the session now in full swing, we recently sat down with the newest member of ACLU-WA’s organizing team Stephen Cooper and Activism Manager Rachel Gilchrist to talk about why supporter involvement is so vital to our legislative work and how you can use your voice to make a difference in Olympia and beyond.

[Note: Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.]

Stephen, your new title is grassroots organizer. How would you describe your job? What does it mean to be a grassroots organizer at ACLU-WA?

SC: I’d say it’s like being a facilitator or mediator between lawmakers and people who care about the issues and want to make change happen. I can help with that. Now that you’ve found your voice and your issues, I can guide you about who to talk to.

What most excites you about this work?

SC: I’ve done some voter registration work, which is obviously so important. But at ACLU-WA, I’m excited to help people channel their interests beyond voting – now that you know you want to be involved in the political process what can you do to make the most impact? I also like to help people understand that there are so many ways to get involved. You don’t have to show up in Olympia every day to testify on behalf of every bill you care about. You can write letters to the editor of your local newspaper or send emails to your lawmaker, or tweet at them. If you can attend a rally, that’s great. Or talk to your friends and family about the issues that matter to you.

Why should people get involved? How can their participation make a difference?

RG: People sometimes feel disillusioned when we talk about national politics because it seems like their vote is just a drop in the bucket. But at the local and state level, there really is so much opportunity to influence lawmakers’ decisions – the decisions that impact all of us across the state. Because a lot of folks don’t pay as much attention to local and state politics and it’s a smaller population, when you do raise your voice, you have a much larger platform than you probably realize.

Individual participation and stories do make an impact. Quite often, for example, we see lawmakers incorporating personal stories shared by an activist they’ve met with into their floor speech before a vote on a bill.

For supporters who are ready to get involved, what specific actions can they take right now?

RG: One example is to sign up for our Action Alert email list. Action alerts are a really important advocacy tool for ACLU-WA and for other organizations. When someone fills out an action alert, we’re asking them to do one of two things: send a message to their lawmakers or sign in to a committee hearing.

Not everyone has the time to do one-on-one lobbying, but there are a lot of people who care. Action alerts help us demonstrate to lawmakers that a lot of people are paying attention.

Folks can also learn more about how to advocate for ACLU-WA’s legislative priorities at a virtual training from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Monday, January 22. Please let us know if you’d like to attend by sending an email to [email protected].  

How can supporters connect with the organizing team at ACLU-WA?

SC: I will be sending out a regular newsletter updating subscribers on our work in Olympia during the legislative session. You can sign up here for the newsletter, which will also include information about upcoming webinar activism trainings to help supporters get involved and build their organizing skills. And please reach out to me directly any time at [email protected].

Stephen, now that we’ve talked about your work, as the newest member of ACLU-WA’s organizing team, we’re going to put you on the spot. What’s something you do outside of work and politics that might surprise folks?

I’m an active member of both Pierce County Explorer Search & Rescue and Whatcom County Search and Rescue Council, meaning if you hike outside of King County and get injured or go missing, it will likely be my phone that rings to go out and help you. Many people think it’s wild that my pastime is being a volunteer first responder, but I cannot emphasize enough how much less stressful it is in comparison to working in politics.