Merkley, Murkowski, Booker Applaud Bipartisan Committee Passage of Legislation to Expand Breastfeeding Protections at Work

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) today applauded the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee passage of the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections (PUMP) for Nursing Mothers Act, which would provide private space and time for new moms who are hourly employees and nursing to pump while they’re at work.

Additionally, the legislation includes an anti-retaliation enforcement provisions to grant women whose workplaces flout the law with pathways to fight for fair compensation and enforcement of the law.

“No mom should have to choose between losing their job and continuing to breastfeeding her baby. Ensuring that new parents returning to the workplace have the time and private space to continue breastfeeding the right thing to do for our families—and it’s good for business, by helping employers retain valuable employees,” said Merkley. “Let’s make 2021 the year that we pass the PUMP Act, so we can finally eliminate the outdated workplace policies that are restricting parents and holding our economy back.”

“Being both a new mom and returning back to work after the birth of your child can be overwhelming, so supporting moms however we can has always been a priority of mine—especially when it comes to the health of their babies. For moms who choose to nurse, they need the adequate time and the space to do so in the workplace,” said Murkowski. “I’m proud to support this legislation to help keep Alaska’s mothers, babies, and businesses healthy and thriving.”

“For far too long, new moms have been discriminated against in the workplace for simply needing time and accommodations to breastfeed,” said Booker. “For their health and the health of their babies, these mothers need a safe, private place to pump and be guaranteed that their time pumping won’t lead to a docked paycheck or other repercussions in the workplace. This bipartisan legislation will positively impact millions of people across our country and allow breastfeeding mothers the labor protections they deserve and the ability to enforce their rights should they be violated. I applaud my colleagues for passing this legislation out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee and I am hopeful the full Senate will follow their lead.”

Inadequate time and space to pump in the workplace subjects countless women to harassment, reduced wages, and job loss, while others are forced to stop breastfeeding—which can create serious health consequences for their own health and the health of their children. According to the Surgeon General, breastfeeding can help protect babies from illnesses like ear, skin, and respiratory infections, diarrhea, and vomiting, as well as longer-term conditions such as obesity, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, and asthma. It also lowers mothers’ risk of breast cancer, heart disease, and other ailments.

“Employers in every industry should have policies in place to accommodate the needs of breastfeeding employees but, unfortunately, that is not currently the case.  Instead, too many workers are penalized, discriminated against, or left without options when they seek reasonable accommodations. The PUMP for  Nursing Mothers Act would ensure that millions of employees left unprotected by current law will have a reasonable amount of time and a private place to pump breast milk at their place of work. We applaud the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension Committee for moving this critical legislation forward. The Senate should pass this bill without delay and safeguard the health and economic security of millions of women and families across the country,” said Vania Leveille, Senior Legislative Counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union. 

“As we hear all too often, new mothers returning to the workplace face unfair treatment because their employers refuse to provide them with time and space to express breast milk, forcing them to choose between breastfeeding and their paycheck. Some workers reduce their schedules, are terminated, or are forced out of the workplace, foregoing vital income and economic security. Too many who continue in their jobs struggle with harassment and health repercussions. Others simply stop breastfeeding altogether. These challenges face many new working parents, but disproportionately low-wage working mothers of color. The PUMP Act will change that and finally guarantee fair treatment for nursing mothers. We thank Senators Merkley, Murkowski, Booker, Casey, and Duckworth for their leadership on this critical legislation and urge its passage without delay,” said Dina Bakst, Co-Founder and Co-President, A Better Balance.

“At a time when women are struggling to return to the workforce, mothers who breastfeed their babies are losing their jobs,” said Jessica Lee, Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for WorkLife Law, UC Hastings Law. “As detailed in our report, Exposed: Discrimination Against Breastfeeding Workers, in nearly 2/3 of breastfeeding legal cases from the last decade the employee lost their job. Many more lose wages, face health consequences or stop breastfeeding early because of a lack of simple and affordable accommodations at work. Lactation discrimination has particularly harsh effects for women of color, adding to health and economic disparities. The PUMP Act will keep American mothers working by strengthening existing law and closing the loophole that leaves nearly one in four working women of childbearing age uncovered by federal protections.”

In addition to Merkley, Murkowski, and Booker, the PUMP Act is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Bob Casey (D-PA), and is supported by 1,000 Days, 2020 Mom, A Better Balance, Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Alimentacion Segura Infantil, American Academy of Family Physicians American Academy of Nursing American Academy of Pediatrics, American Association of University Women American Civil Liberties Union, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Public Health Association, Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs Association of State Public Health Nutritionists Baby Cafe USA, Baby-Friendly USA, Inc., Beaufort-Jasper-Hampton Comprehensive Health Services, BetaCarrotTeen, Birthing Miracles Pregnancy Services LLC Black Breastfeeding Caucus, Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association Breastfeeding Family Friendly Communities Breastfeeding USA, Bright Future Lactation Resource Centre Ltd. Center for Health Equity, Education, and Research Center for WorkLife Law, Coalition of Labor Union Women Dancing For Birth, LLC, Every Mother, Inc. HealthConnect One, Healthy Children Project, Inc., Human Milk Banking Association of North America Indigenous Breastfeeding Counselor, International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners, International Childbirth Education Association Lactation Training Lab, LactPower, La Leche League Alliance La Leche League USA Mom2Mom Global Mom Congress MomsRising, National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners National Birth Equity Collaborative, National Employment Law Project National Lactation Consultant Alliance, National Partnership for Women & Families National Women’s Law Center, Native Breastfeeding Council, Nurturely, Pumpspotting, Precious Jewels Moms Ministries Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere, Inc Search Influence, The Institute for the Advancement of Breastfeeding and Lactation Education, U.S. Breastfeeding Committee Women-Inspired Systems’ Enrichment, ZERO TO THREE, and more. For a complete list of supporting organizations, click here.

The full text of the PUMP Act is available here. A fact sheet is available here.

The next step for the legislation is a vote before the full Senate.