A win for nursing mothers

While Brattleboro Food Co-op (BFC) workers are waiting to have their chance to vote yes for their union, they are not waiting to start improving their workplace.

This past week, staff members and their supporters met with BFC human resources to propose and win a suitable space for nursing mothers to express breast milk during their work day.

Under Section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employers are required to provide “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.” The Co-op, unfortunately, had mothers nurse in a bathroom or a utility closet.

“I would sit with my back against the door and balance a stepladder in between the door and the closest panel. That is where I propped my breast pump and just had to be very careful as to not let any of the tubing come undone,” says Jessica Cavanaugh, a nursing employee of the Co-op who would attempt to pump milk for her baby inside an electrical closet.

''If the pump got knocked over by someone opening the door, I knew I could be facing a big problem,” she said.

Cavanaugh recalled being in the closet and hearing loud banging on the door as she sat against it.

''I quickly realized that if this was something I wanted to continue doing for my child, I really needed to come up with something,” she said. “This was just simply not going to work and was not at all okay.”

A group of Jessica's co-workers spoke with organizers of the union and had one simple task: to find or create a space that was private, comfortable, reasonable, and safe.

On Wednesday, a small group of employees as well as union supporters met at the Co-op and worked out an agreement to use a meeting room on the second floor. A shareholder who is also a nursing mother even made curtains for its windows to create privacy.

Not only is this a great step for the Co-op and the Brattleboro community, but it also demonstrates the overall goal of union supporters, that the goals of staff are attainable.

Through fair treatment, staff unity, and better communication, the Co-op can and will become a better place for its employees, shareholders, and the Brattleboro community.

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