U.S.-based airlines allegedly lobbied to have flight attendants excluded from a historic new law that guarantees mothers new rights in the workplace to continue breastfeeding when they return to work.
The PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act finally cleared the Senate on Thursday, and with it, thousands of new mothers will now be guaranteed the space and time to pump and store breast milk while they are at work.
But there is a small but significant difference between the PUMP Act that passed through Congress in October 2021 and the PUMP Act that has just become law. In the original Bill, the PUMP Act included guarantees for both flight attendants and pilots.
Both of those workgroups, however, have been excluded from the final PUMP Act.
“Airline management stood in the way of the right to pump for Flight Attendants and pilots on the job,” commented Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) shortly after the Bill was passed.
Nelson and her union have been fierce advocates for enshrining protections for flight attendants and pilots who want to continue providing breastmilk for their babies.
Some airlines that are represented by the AFA, including Alaska Airlines, already provide guarantees in their contract, while others have fallen in line after facing te threat of lawsuits.
Earlier this year, Frontier Airlines settled a suit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado on behalf of a group of flight attendants who claimed they had been discriminated against over the carrier’s failure to guarantee their right to pump on the job.
The airline said it was able to settle the suit because advances in wearable lactation devices meant that flight attendants could pump breastmilk while continuing to work. Both the ACLU and AFA encouraged other airlines to follow suit and guarantee new mothers “reasonable break time” to pump milk.
Instead, however, Nelson argues that some airlines have actively stood in the way of a law that would guarantee this right.
The fight, however, isn’t over yet. Next year is the start of the FAA Reauthorization process and Nelson says she’ll be working to get protections for breastfeeding flight attendants and pilots include in the Bill.
“We will never stop fighting to beat back discrimination against Flight Attendants or any worker,” Nelson continued.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.