The following blog post is adapted from remarks given by Rabbi Eliana Fischel (Washington Hebrew Congregation) at the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Rally on December 1, 2022.
Good afternoon. My name is Rabbi Eliana Fischel. I am a rabbi at Washington Hebrew Congregation, a member congregation of the Union for Reform Judaism, which encompasses 1.8 million Reform Jews in nearly 850 congregations.
Jews value family. We like babies. We particularly value those who do the hard work of creating families. The first commandment given to our people in the Torah is, pru ur'vu, "be fruitful and multiply" (Genesis 1:28)-- a commandment I am blessed to have fulfilled twice through the birth of my son, Ezra, and my daughter, Rebecca. As Jews, the ability to have and raise children is a blessing and a holy responsibility.
Although lesser known, Jews, also, deeply care about workers and workers' rights. Our cannon is riddled with laws about how we should treat employees. One of our most famous directives comes from the Talmud, where it states that "one who withholds an employee's wages is as though he deprived him of his life" (Baba Metzia 112a). Our tradition demands that we take employee compensation and accommodation seriously because we know that both are a matter of life and death. This law goes on to explain that we must pay employees the day services are rendered. Not only do we value fair compensation and accommodation for employees, but we do so with haste. It is not Jewish nor ethical to make someone wait.
As a representative of a people that puts family at the center and highly values fair and reasonable working conditions and compensation, I urge Majority Leader Schumer to bring the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act to a floor vote in the Senate before the end of the year.
Pregnant workers who lack pregnancy accommodations have gone too long without a stool to sit, more frequent bathroom breaks or being allowed to carry a water bottle. They have gone too long fearing that they will need to choose between their pregnancy and their employment. We have made these workers wait for reasonable accommodations. Their working conditions, nor their wait for improvement, are not just, are not Jewish, and are not okay.
And so, I ask the Senate to prioritize and pass this essential, common-sense legislation-before it's too late-to ensure that pregnant and postpartum workers will be treated fairly in the workforce, stay in the workforce, and can continue earning income to support themselves and their families. Thank you.