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Diverse Coalition of Faith Groups Calls for Justice for Pregnant Workers

Diverse Coalition of Faith Groups Calls for Justice for Pregnant Workers

Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Young v. United Parcel Service, a pregnancy discrimination case that has significant implications for working women across the country. Supporters of the plaintiff, Peggy Young, gathered before the Court to protest pregnancy discrimination, sharing stories to highlight that the discrimination Young faced is not unique but rather a widespread injustice for working women. Speakers shared stories of cashiers fired for requesting a stool to alleviate the fatigue of standing and of women who stocked shelves fired for carrying a water bottle to stay hydrated on duty. They shared stories of their own and stories from their mothers’ generation and before, wondering aloud “why we’re here,” 36 years after the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978—the law in question in Young—was created to require reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers.

Rabbi Jack Luxemburg of Temple Beth Ami in Rockville, Maryland spoke at the rally on behalf of a diverse coalition of faith groups that share the firm belief that pregnant women must be allowed to continue working to support themselves and their families. Rabbi Luxemburg shared teachings from Torah, shared in our neighbors’ scripture:

What we call Torah, and what others of good faith refer to as Scripture, instructs us that there is no higher expression of recognition and respect for the divine image which is reflected in every human being, than how we treat each other every day … including in how we treat those who work with us and work for us. Scripture (Leviticus 19:13, Deuteronomy 24:14) teaches us that workers must receive fair and timely pay for their labor … including pregnant women; that no benefit or comfort to which they are entitled can be withheld from them … including pregnant women; that workers be provided with the tools and conditions that allow them to do the job expected of them (Baba Metzia 10:5) ... including pregnant women.

The wide range of faith groups that voiced their support for Peggy Young and workers like her include an unusual partnership between pro-life and pro-choice groups. RAC Deputy Director Rachel Laser published a joint op-ed with Galen Carey, Vice President of the National Association of Evangelicals, to highlight the common ground between the Reform Jewish community and our allies in support of justice for pregnant workers.

Now more than ever, women depend on their attachment to the labor-force. A record 40 percent of all households with children under the age of 18 include mothers who are either the sole or primary source of income for the family (nearly double the number at the time of the passage of the PDA).

Seventy percent of women with children under the age of eighteen work outside the home. And nearly 90 percent of women working full-time while pregnant choose to continue working into their last month of pregnancy.

The Court should uphold the rights of pregnant workers. At this divisive moment in our nation, we celebrate an issue that can bridge our differences, strengthen civil discourse and fortify our country's economic, political and moral foundations.

Now, we await the Court’s decision, which could come as early as March or as late as the end of the term in June. Check back on the RACBlog for more updates as we continue to fight for justice for pregnant workers. The Union for Reform Judaism, Central Conference of American Rabbis, and Women of Reform Judaism joined an amicus brief to the Court in support of Peggy Young in early September - you can read that brief here.

Published: 12/04/2014

Categories: Social Justice