149 House Republicans vote against protections for breastfeeding at work

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A bipartisan bill would require breaks and spaces for pumping.

The House passed a bipartisan bill on Friday to ensure workplace protections for breastfeeding parents, 276-149. But all of those no votes against came from Republicans.

The Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers (PUMP) Act, authored by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), would require employers to provide:

a reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk each time such employee has need to express breast milk for the 2-year period beginning on the date on which the circumstances related to such need arise" and "a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.

Its eight co-sponsors include Republicans Don Bacon (NE), Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA), Brian Fitzpatrick (PA), and Don Young (AK).

In a floor speech in support of the bill, Maloney said Friday that the bill would protect nearly 9 million employees not covered by previous legislation and provide remedies in case the protections are ignored.

"When I first came to Congress, working mothers would come to me — often in tears — and advocate for a place to safely pump breastmilk. Often they were fired, ridiculed, forbidden, or forced to pump milk in bathrooms," she recalled.

Maloney added that without legal protections, "nursing mothers face serious health consequences, including the risk of painful illness and the inability to continue to breastfeed."

An Education and Labor Committee fact sheet on the legislation noted that existing breastfeeding protections do not cover "workers who are statutorily excluded from overtime protections, including teachers, agricultural workers, and certain 'white-collar' workers." It cited an estimate from the Economic Policy Institute that "8.65 million workers of childbearing age are excluded from nursing mother protections."

But during the committee's consideration in July, the Republican minority objected to the bill.

"Unfortunately, H.R. 3110 takes an overly broad and punitive approach which imposes unnecessary and confusing mandates on certain employers which, coupled with inflated penalties for alleged violations, will provide incentives for trial lawyers to file lawsuits against unsuspecting smaller businesses with the promise of big payouts," they wrote.

The bill now moves onto the Senate where just one Republican — Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — has signed onto the legislation to date.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.