Coalition of Labor Union Women
  • January 29, 2023

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  • CLUW Applauds Passage of Bills to Provide Women Workers’ Job Protections
    Updated On: Dec 25, 2022

    Washington, DC, December 24, 2022, Two bills to provide additional protections for pregnant workers and breastfeeding people were included in the $1.7 trillion federal government spending package passed by Congress this week. Elise Bryant, President of the Coalition of Labor Union Women remarked, “This is an important recognition, particularly for the needs of low income workers and women of color. CLUW is glad to have been a part of this struggle and to celebrate its victory. A big thank you to our members and to the broader coalition in seeing this through.”

    The Senate amendment to add the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) to the spending package passed on Thursday 12/22/22 with a 73-24 vote. The proposal was passed by the House of Representatives in May 2021. In another win for family-friendly work policy, senators also voted to approve a separate amendment expanding the rights of women to pump breast milk at work. That measure, known as the PUMP Act, passed 92 to 5. The House passed the larger package to fund the federal government on Friday. President Biden has agreed to sign this into law as soon as it reaches his desk.

    The PWFA would require employers to provide pregnant workers with reasonable accommodations just as they do disabled workers, like more frequent bathroom breaks, the ability to carry a water bottle and the option to sit during a shift.  Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pennsylvania), one of the bill sponsors commented, “It means if a woman is pregnant in the workforce she can do her job and have a healthy and safe pregnancy. “

    The background of this victory is long in coming.  In 1976, the Supreme Court ruled in General Electric v. Gilbert that employers could refuse benefits to pregnant women.  The case was brought by the International Union of Electrical Radio and Machine Workers.  This was in part the impetus for the UAW, AFL-CIO, Communications Workers of America, the National Women’s Law Project, other unions and civil and women’s rights group in pushing for passage of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 which amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, that prohibits discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.

    “The Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW),.. had included the PDA as one of its goals from inception. CLUW members came together to figure out how to convince male union leaders to support the law. This effort was instrumental in pushing back against challenges against the law both from within the labor movement and without.”  More background information can be found here.

    Many of the coalition members who worked for ten years to push for passage of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act to fix a loophole in the earlier legislation have been on the frontlines for other worker/family needs such as sick leave.  We direct you to the article that follows from the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a “think tank” ally that connects the issues of the need for sick leave and the recent railroad worker negotiations. Read more here.  A battle that will next take center stage.

    An example of CLUW, unions and women's groups rallying in the past for pregnant workers.

    This is an IAM production.

    But in the meantime, let’s celebrate our wins as we enter 2023.

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