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Uniting for Justice for Pregnant Workers

Uniting for Justice for Pregnant Workers

Earlier this month, we applauded the reintroduction of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, or PWFA (S. 1512/H.R. 2654). The bill would require employers to reasonably accommodate pregnant employees’ health needs—if the employer can do so without undue hardship—allowing pregnant workers to continue to work to earn wages and benefits. Although PWFA has been reintroduced many times in the past, this is the first time in its history that the bill has bipartisan support! Senators Ayotte (R-NH) and Heller (R-NV) joined Senators Casey (D-PA) and Shaheen (D-NH) as lead sponsors, helping to lead the way in support of pregnant workers. This bipartisan co-sponsorship is exciting progress, meaning PWFA has a much stronger chance of moving forward in this Congress.

Reform rabbis played a key role leading up to the bill’s reintroduction. The new, bipartisan support for PWFA is the result of a long, coordinated effort by a diverse coalition of women’s rights organizations, secular partners and faith advocates—the Reform Movement included. Our rabbis in New Hampshire, West Virginia, Maine and Georgia reached out to their Senators’ offices in support of pregnancy accommodations, based on our faith’s teaching to treat workers justly and to protect the health of all in our community.

Here at the RAC, we organized a letter signed by 25 religious denominations and faith-based organizations, to emphasize our shared belief that providing reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers is a moral issue. The letter, sent to all 100 Senators, reads in part:

Our sacred texts speak to the importance and sacred nature of work—an opportunity to be co-creators with God—and demand in the strongest possible terms the protection of all workers as a matter of justice. Our traditions also teach that protecting health is not just an obligation for a patient and a doctor, but is instead the most important service that a community can provide to its residents. PWFA would require employers to make simple, reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees, including reassigning a worker to a desk job if her usual job requires heavy lifting, allowing someone to carry a water bottle on the sales floor, or accommodating a person’s need for regular pre-natal medical visits. Protecting and respecting the health and the dignity of pregnant workers is an expression of our religious values.

The widespread faith support represented in our letter further demonstrates that the issue of pregnancy accommodations unites, rather than divides, elected officials and advocates across the ideological spectrum. As RAC Deputy Director Rachel Laser emphasized in a statement on the bill’s reintroduction, “That PWFA has bipartisan support for the first time in its history demonstrates that the issue of pregnancy accommodations transcends politics and embodies shared values across a diverse range of beliefs.”

PWFA’s bipartisan support gives a new boost to the momentum to ensure that no worker is forced to choose between protecting the health of her pregnancy and continuing to work to support herself and her family. Take action today to continue that momentum; urge your Senators and Representative to co-sponsor the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act!

Published: 6/16/2015

Categories: Social Justice