August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month. It’s an opportunity to recognize the importance of breastfeeding and celebrate breastfeeding, while also considering the challenges still before us in ensuring all mothers can breastfeed if they choose. Unfortunately, too many nursing parents—particularly those who work in low wage jobs and mothers of color—are still being forced to choose between breastfeeding and earning a paycheck, oftentimes suffering negative health consequences as a result. Therefore, our workplace laws have an important role to play in promoting access to breastfeeding.
Recent Labor Department data shows that women have now overtaken men as the majority of the labor force. Women have always worked and played a crucial role in our economy, but more than ever, it’s clear that our workplace laws are far behind. So this International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, we’re calling for federal laws that will go a long way towards advancing gender equality.
The U.S. is facing a maternal and infant health crisis—one that is disproportionately impacting Black women and women of color—as highlighted in a recent Congressional hearing. Although this problem and its solutions are multifaceted, one key piece to addressing this crisis is the need to ensure our workplaces are safe and supportive environments for pregnant workers and mothers. Unfortunately, the reality is that too many pregnant workers and new mothers are forced to risk their health at work—especially those women in low-wage and physically demanding jobs, who are largely women of color.
The PUMP Act will strengthen the 2010 Break Time for Nursing Mothers Law, extending the law’s protections to 9 million employees who are currently uncovered due to the law’s inclusion in the Fair Labor Standards Act, including nurses, teachers, and software engineers. The PUMP Act will also provide employers some additional clarity about employees who need to take breaks to express breastmilk for their babies.