SACRAMENTO — About 65 breastfeeding advocates visited the state Capitol on Jan. 23 and voiced their support of job-protected paid family leave.
The trip was part of the recent California Breastfeeding Summit, an annual convening of people throughout the state committed to promoting, protecting and supporting breastfeeding for all families.
This was the first time the California Breastfeeding Coalition scheduled a Capitol visit as part of the Summit. Coalition Executive Director Robbie Gonzalez-Dow said hosting the Summit in the state’s capital city made planning the advocacy event a logical choice.
“Our location in Sacramento, and the support we had from partner organizations, made the opportunity too good to pass up,” she said. “Paid family leave for all employees in California plays a crucial role in successful breastfeeding outcomes.”
The California Work & Family Coalition, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Legal Aid at Work, BreastfeedLA and California WIC Association all worked together to organize advocacy training, schedule legislative events and help attendees understand the power of letting their voices be heard.
Advocates brought with them a diverse array of experiences and stories to share about the importance of protected family leave.
From someone who lost her job after having a baby to another whose job was protected during an extended pregnancy-related absence, every attendee shared the personal impact of family leave.
“What I heard over and over again from attendees was that they had no idea their stories mattered,” Gonzalez-Dow said. “Being heard was both empowering and eye-opening.”
Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), who has authored six bills over the past seven years related to family leave in California, spoke with advocates before they left to visit 55 different legislative offices in small groups. She shared the gaps in existing law while also explaining Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decision to tackle the issue through the budget appropriation process.
“This is why you’re here today,” Jackson said. “To help representatives understand why it’s important to support the governor’s budget item.”
For Gonzalez-Dow, who has benefited from the state’s paid family leave program to care for a loved one, the idea that 40 percent of the people who pay into the program can be fired for taking the benefit because they don’t have legal job protection, is unacceptable.
“Breastfeeding outcomes aside, if you pay into the program, you should be covered by it,” she said.
California Work & Family Coalition’s article on the event features the first-person perspectives of CBC members who participated in Advocacy Day, including Summit exhibitor Rupal Asodaria (founder of NursElet) and former CBC communications manager Ericka Dorsey. To find out more about the coordinated national effort to ensure protected family leave for all, visit https://paidleaveforall.org/.