Office of Rep. Marilyn Strickland press release.
Congresswoman Marilyn Strickland (WA-10), a member of the Black Maternal Health Caucus and a Leader in the Pro-Choice Caucus, released the following statement after the House passed her amendment to H.R.3110, the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act, legislation which protects workers by expanding access to breastfeeding accommodations in the workplace. Representative Strickland’s amendment strengthens the bill by directing the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a study on racial disparities in access to pump breastmilk in the workplace, and requires the GAO to report recommendations to Congress to address those disparities.
Strickland speaks in support of her amendment to H.R.3110 to support workplace equity for women and mothers.
“Women, and especially women of color, face far too many barriers when they return from maternity leave and re-enter the workforce. Breastfeeding accommodations should not be one of them. My amendment to H.R. 3110, the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act, ensures that as Congress expands access to breastfeeding accommodations in the workplace, we do so equitably. We must ensure that women and mothers from all backgrounds have the support they deserve in the workplace,” said Strickland.
Congresswoman Strickland’s full remarks are transcribed below.
There are several contributing factors to why nursing mothers may choose not to breastfeed and pump milk when returning to work. They include inflexible work schedules that make nursing and pumping breast milk regularly difficult; the lack of accommodations to pump and store milk; and concerns regarding support from supervisors and colleagues to pump milk. In addition to these factors, women of color and low-income women often experience the need to return to work shortly after giving birth, in many cases earlier than 12 weeks, and face additional barriers such as racial discrimination and bias.
That is why I am proud to offer my amendment to H.R. 3110, the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act, the underlying bill that protects vulnerable workers by expanding access to breastfeeding accommodations in the workplace. This important piece of legislation advances our goals of equity in the workplace, and my amendment seeks to strengthen this bill by directing the GAO to conduct a study on the racial disparities that exist in access to pumping breastmilk in the workplace. This amendment also requires that the GAO submit a report to Congress on the results of this study with recommendations to address those disparities.
Employers can begin to address these barriers by offering private lactation rooms, or nursing rooms, for both breastfeeding and pumping with proper cleaning and storage facilities such as a table, sink and small refrigerator, providing employees with adequate pump breaks, allowing flexible work schedules and guaranteeing paid family leave.
In fact, we can look to my home state of Washington as a prime example of a leader on this issue. In 2019, the state legislature passed and signed into law House Bill 1930, which goes one step further than the current federal law by expanding pump break rights to include both salaried and hourly employees, requiring employers to provide a private space for pumping that isn’t a bathroom, and allowing mothers to get pumping breaks for up to two years after birth. Washington is also one of the very few states that provides people with up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave after the birth or adoption of a child.
Yet, despite current federal law, strong state level protections such as the ones in Washington, and the gains that have been made in this area by employers in different sectors across our country, racial disparities in the workplace still exist for women wishing to pump. My amendment aims to close this gap and equip Congress with the data it needs to create meaningful solutions.
We must ensure that women and mothers everywhere and from all backgrounds have the support they deserve in the workplace. I urge my colleagues to support this amendment and the underlying bill, the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act.
Congresswoman Strickland is a strong advocate for women and working families in Congress. In August, Strickland and US Labor Secretary Marty Walsh highlighted the need for federal investment in working families, caregivers, and caregiving infrastructure including paid leave, in-home care, the Child Tax Credit, the Earned Income Tax Credit and more. In April, Strickland co-led the introduction of the Access to Contraception for Servicemembers and Dependents Act, legislation to ensure military families receive the quality reproductive health care they deserve. In April, Strickland also led Pro-Choice Caucus members on a letter to advance and protect reproductive health rights in the US and across the globe. In March, Strickland co-led the introduction of the Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act, legislation to repeal the Helms Amendment and advance reproductive and economic freedom and equity worldwide. A member of the Black Maternal Health Caucus, Strickland is an original cosponsor of the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021 and the Healthy MOM Act, legislation which comprehensively addresses the maternal health crisis in America.