New Breastfeeding Protection Law Doesn’t Extend to Flight Attendants or Pilots

The PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act passed this week. One group of women was noticeably left out of the bill.

Flight Attendant

On Thursday, the historic PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act finally cleared the Senate with bipartisan support. Under the act, breastfeeding mothers will be guaranteed time and space to pump at work — an obviously major milestone for women’s workplace rights, and for hourly workers in particular.

That said, there’s one group of women that the bill does not offer protections to.

According to a new report from travel blow Paddle Your Own Kanoo, the version of the PUMP Act that was signed into law this week does not extend to pilots or flight attendants, though the original bill, which passed through Congress in October 2021, did. So why the omission now?

Allegedly airlines lobbied lawmakers to exclude them. In at least one scenario, an airline went so far as to argue that wearable lactation devices made it so that flight attendants could pump while continuing to work, thus rendering breaks unnecessary.

“Airline management stood in the way of the right to pump for flight attendants and pilots on the job,” Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) said in a statement following the passing of the bill.

It does bear mentioning that some airlines do have guarantees built into their contracts. Others, as Mateusz Maszczynski points out, have begun making concessions after facing lawsuits. But the existence of those lawsuits at all proves there’s still room for reform. For Nelson’s part, she’s still actively working to get both flight attendants and pilots included in the bill.

“We will never stop fighting to beat back discrimination against flight attendants or any worker,” she added.

Now, maybe 2023 will be the year we stop policing flight attendants for having tattoos or what uniform they choose to wear, or see them able to pump in peace, but we’ve gotta admit…this feels like a pretty bleak way to kick it off.


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