Today, during the first conference of the newly formed Breastfeeding Coalition of Oregon, I and 80 other breastfeeding advocates, lactation consultants, peer counselors, and LLL leaders from across the state, took a break from the conference proceedings to watch the live broadcast of the Oregon Senate as it voted to pass the nation's strongest law yet protecting moms who wish to express breastmilk at work, by a vote of 28 to 2. The new law requires employers of 25 or more to provide breastfeeding mothers with 30-minute unpaid breaks every four hours and a private location to pump. While employers can request an exemption if providing such accommodations creates an undue burden, they first must work with the Bureau of Labor and Industry to see if there is a way for the employer to comply. Employers who refuse to comply with the law face a penalty of $1000 per day of violation. The Oregon House passed the measure in March and Governor Kulongoski is expected to sign the bill into law in a public ceremony later this month.
This legislation was authored by Dianne Garrett, a volunteer lobbyist with the Nursing Mothers Counsel of Oregon and mother. She worked tirelessly and with amazing grace, driving regularly from Portland to Salem to meet with lawmakers, drafting amendments that made the law flexible enough to silence objections from its only antagonist (the Association of Oregon Industries, which previously called the bill the greatest threat to Oregon's economic recovery), yet strong enough to provide 70 percent of Oregon's working moms with the accommodations they need to be able to return to work and continue to provide their babies with the food that is their birthright.
What a great day for Oregon's breastfeeding children, moms, and their advocates!