"We believe in fighting for equity for all" - Reflections from Work & Family Lobby Day

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Tony and Tanya Reyes pose with their one-year-old baby in front of their representative Asm. Laura Friedman’s office during Work and Family CA Lobby Day on May 22, 2017. Tanya is a Los Angeles teacher and member of the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) and Breastfeed LA.

Lobby day provides a space for ordinary Californians to lobby for ideas they support, and beliefs that will change the lives of other families.  My husband and I decided to participate in the California Work and Family Coalition’s Lobby Day because of our battle for breastfeeding. As a first time mom, I had the privilege of spending ten months at home with my daughter. My husband and I saved money so I could stay home. In January 2017, I returned to work teary eyed but determined. To help with the transition, my nanny brought my daughter to me during my unpaid lunch break so I can breastfeed her.  This continued for almost two months, but was stopped abruptly after I began to criticize my new administrator and advocate for our Union rights. Within days of my criticism, I was told my daughter was a liability and not allowed on campus. My administrator docked my pay three times, threatened to dock an hour of pay for 10 minutes of milk expression, and waited outside my classroom each time I pumped. I contacted my local La Leche League, who contacted Breastfeed LA, and Arissa Palmer became my advocate and partner in this fight. Later, Breastfeed LA asked us to advocate for SB63, the New Parent Leave Act, which will give 2.7 million more Californians job protection when they take leave to bond with a new child, and we happily agreed.

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During the lobby day, we learned that paid family leave doesn’t benefit ALL families because though offered leave, those working for businesses with less than 50 employees do not have job protection, so many parents do not take time off to bond with their new child. We want all families to have this right. My husband owns A.R. Pro Retrofitter, a small company, which specializes in retrofitting homes. He believes in paid parental leave. However, as a business owner and the only employee, he was unable to take leave himself: he went back to work the day after our daughter was born. But if he has employees in the future, he wants them to have this right because he believes happy employees are good for business. We believe in fighting for equity for all.

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Although I may have lost my own personal battle for breastfeeding my daughter during my unpaid lunch break, I’ve learned the real change is slow. Everyday normal citizens pushing forward for equity creates change.  Sometimes you go forward, and sometimes you fall back, but we must not give up. We must all continue to push forward for we can’t always see the change that is being created by our actions. It ripples and pulses into the world and we are the conduits of change.

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