With the support of his colleagues, County Council Member Andrew Friedson is leading efforts to provide paid family leave and lactation rooms for county employees.
Friedson on Tuesday introduced two bills aimed at achieving those goals. One of them provides six weeks of full pay to part-time and full-time county employees, including birth parents, adoptive parents, or foster parents. The bill also applies to county employees who are the spouse or domestic partner of a parent.
The other bill would require county buildings to create private lactation rooms for employees, which would be equipped with a flat surface where a breast pump can be placed, a sink with running water, a small refrigerator, a microwave , electrical outlets, a chair and other necessities .
Public hearings for both bills are scheduled for July 12 at 1:30 p.m.
Friedson was joined by co-sponsor and board member Nancy Navarro, board chairman Gabe Albornoz, board members Tom Hucker and Sidney Katz and other advocates for the legislation at a press conference outside the building of county council offices in Rockville.
Navarro said Friedson’s efforts build on legislation the council passed in 2015 that established a more robust sick leave policy for county employees. And she added that accompanying legislation for the construction of lactation rooms is essential, especially in light of the recent national shortage of infant formula.
State Del. Ariana Kelly (D-Bethesda) said she had personal experience dealing with the lack of lactation rooms in the workplace. When she had her first child, she worked as a journalist and had to pump her breast milk without a nursing room into her newsroom, instead using the communal sink in the newsroom kitchen.
“It was humiliating, it was horrifying…” Kelly said. “The message he sent to me as a new mom is that this place is not built for you.”
Donna Rojas, chair of the Montgomery County Commission for Women, said the paid vacation policy will benefit many county employees, especially women. Rojas, a former county employee, said she knows countless examples of co-workers who had to save up their paid time off so they could take care of their children after they were born.
Karen Gome Morales, bilingual program manager for Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, said in an interview that she lives in Montgomery County, but chose to work in Washington, D.C., because of the benefits her job brings. there offers, like paid family leave.
Morales said the district and city employers have been forward-thinking in how they provide paid family leave, and it’s good that Montgomery County is seeing the benefits. She added that the Lactation Rooms Bill is another important piece.
“I’ve definitely heard from friends who are mothers who’ve had to breastfeed how difficult it is to find a place where they can do it safely, do it discreetly, do it in private,” Morales said.
Friedson said in an interview that the two bills show that county government “leads by the power of our example.”
Fundamentally, the paid family leave bill shows the county values its workforce, he said. Even though co-workers must cover those who use family leave, granting paid family leave will show that the county takes recruitment and retention efforts seriously, and maintains a healthy and happy workforce. , Friedson added.
“Whatever happens, people are going to have to take over [for those on leave]. The difference is, is it going to be permanent, or are we going to want them back?” Friedson said. “Are we going to encourage them to stay in the county workforce, or are we going to discouraged to the point that they leave?”
“We don’t want to spend all of our time building institutional knowledge, training members of our workforce, giving them the skills to be productive supporters of our community – and then, when they have a child, to not have the right support here, and have to make this horrible, impossible decision between caring for their family and their newborn or foster child or going back to work,” Friedson added.
At Tuesday’s press conference, Navarro said she would also work with Friedson and advocate for including parents who experience stillbirths in the legislation as well. Friedson said he supported the idea and that an amendment would be drafted soon.
Steve Bohnel can be reached at [email protected]