By Haley DeGray
Eighteen years ago, I was pregnant and working at a high heat tape factory in Holyoke, MA. I was a hard worker, well respected by my co-workers and eager to stay employed for my full pregnancy. My husband and I needed the money to be able to support ourselves, and couldn't do without my salary. When I was 36 weeks pregnant I asked my supervisor for a stool to sit on. I wasn't feeling like myself and needed a break from standing at the machines all day. He looked me in the eyes and said, "If I give you a stool, I'll have to give everyone a stool. The answer is No!" I was shocked and furious. I had to stand on my feet for the rest of the day because I needed that job, even though I was concerned about my pregnancy. I was a committed worker and was asking for very basic assistance to continue to do my job. But I was denied. Unfortunately, the next day, I had to have an emergency C-section. Thank goodness my beautiful baby girl was ok, and will be graduating from high school next year. But the outrage I felt when my boss wouldn't allow me a basic stool when I needed it to ensure the health of my pregnancy infuriates me to this day.
I am writing today, because although this happened to me 18 years ago, pregnancy discrimination is unfortunately alive and well in Western MA and across the Commonwealth. When I was pregnant there were no protections. There are still none today. But we have an opportunity to change that. The MA Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is a very basic bill that will protect pregnant workers from discrimination at work. It will ensure that pregnant workers can have a bottle of water, take bathroom breaks, not have to climb high ladders, and have a stool to sit on when necessary. These temporary accommodations are simple, inexpensive (most cost nothing!) and ensure the safety and health of pregnant women as well as guarantee their ability to make a living to support their families.
Forty percent of mothers in the Commonwealth are primary bread winners for their family and 80-90 percent of mothers are working into their 8th-9th month of pregnancy. We must guarantee that pregnant workers do not have to make the horrible choice between the baby they love and the job they need. We do not want any other mothers to end up like I did, having emergency C-sections endangering their health and that of their infant. And we don't want worse -- mothers losing their jobs when they need them the most and babies having negative outcomes because minor temporary accommodations weren't available at work.
I urge Rep. Wagner of Chicopee and the entire MA Delegation to support this legislation in every way you can. It will make a huge difference to us, your constituents, who are dealing with pregnancy discrimination today.
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