At the U.S. Breastfeeding Committee biannual Membership Meeting, WorkLife Law staff attorney Jessica Lee addressed USBC’s 100+ member organizations, who are working collaboratively to drive policy and practice changes that create a landscape of breastfeeding support. Watch Jessica’s inspiring “Mission Moment” or read the text below.
We’re joining this meeting today in the midst of an unprecedented time, where our shared mission to build a country that values and helps families thrive has never been more important.
During this crisis, we as a nation have been challenged to act. Challenged to act in a way that reflects our values; that the lives of our children, elderly and disabled community members have worth.
To show with our actions that Black Lives Matter, to show with our actions that—in this Hispanic American Heritage month—Hispanic lives, Latine lives, are valuable. We’ve been asked to step up and act in a way that reflects that the lives of Native and Indigenous families are worth fighting for.
And I must acknowledge that I’m saying this while occupying stolen and exploited Powhatan land. Land which is also just down the road from where a monument to white supremacy, a monument to a man whose family considered my family their personal property, has only now, in 2021, been brought down.
We have a long way to go.
We also have a long way to go addressing the related challenges of work and family, and work and health, that are now facing us head on. I’m seeing this crisis of work and family in the calls that keep rolling into WorkLife Law’s helpline. Many of you see these challenges in your own communities:
- Parents who have no choice but to go to work, even though they’ve been told the exposure puts their disabled kids at grave risk.
- Parents leaving kids home alone when school is closed, because if they didn’t show up for work, they would have no home at all.
- A mom fired and told to come back to work once she weaned her baby.
- Breastfeeding workers who are told they have 15 minutes a day to pump, in a bathroom, and they should feel lucky to even have a job.
- Student parents told they can’t breastfeed during class…a virtual class…in their own homes.
These calls come in day in and day out. To be honest, I’ve stopped casually asking folks, “how are you?” Most of us already know the answer before we ask. We’re here, but we’re not OK. We’re stretched thin. We’re grieving, for those we lost in the pandemic, for those we’ve lost to racism and institutionalized oppression, and for our country that feels like it is splitting itself apart.
I am tired. Maybe you are, too. But I want to share with you today that I am also wildly hopeful.
A big reason for my hope in this dark time is you. It is the progress made by the USBC. I am so fortunate to be engaged in this struggle with the brave and bold champions for health and equity that I’ve met here. People who practice the anti-racist and pro-family messages they preach. People who put the lives of children and birthing parents first.
This organization has been doing the painful and necessary work of building a leaderful movement and centering the most impacted communities. We’ve been acting out our values—and this ongoing work is starting to bear fruit.
That’s another big reason why I’m so hopeful today; we’re close to seeing some of the biggest changes and advances in racial equity in maternal and infant health in a decade, if not a generation.
From the WPSI recommendations to the Momnibus Act to getting Paid Family Leave, we’ve never been closer to the equitable future we’ve been fighting for. As early as next week, the House of Representatives will be voting on the PUMP Act (H.R. 3110), which would make sure ALL workers have a right to break time and space to pump at work. Research shows that laws like PUMP have a big impact on human milk feeding initiation and duration.
The PUMP Act is the strongest workplace lactation law to ever be proposed, let alone have a chance. And it has a good one if we fight for it. Now. This week. And in the coming weeks.
The PUMP Act, and so many of the efforts that give me hope, have only happened because of the community fostered here at the USBC. You bring our diverse experiences and skills together to make a beautiful and strong force working on behalf of families.
From El Paso, Del Rio, to Minnesota, New Orleans, and even in the halls of power at Capitol Hill, I see you. I see your fight. To those of you who have been putting in this difficult work, who have been reflecting your values in your action—thank you.
To those who may be new, or on the sidelines, now is the time. There is a place for you here, and if you don’t know where your place is, there are people eager to help you find it.
I hope you all will give of yourself what you can, no matter how small that may be, that you’ll learn from each other and build each other up so that when you need to step back, someone else is ready to step up.
It’s time to put our action where our heart is. To prove our values through our work to support thriving families. The moment for our mission is now—I hope you’ll seize it.