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News: Mother Friendly Breastfeeding bill supports working moms.
Happening People: Gweneth van Frank Carlson
OF MARCH RALLY
"We are not losers and victims," says Hope Marston, one of the organizers, in a message to activists. "We are powerful people. We can stop this war. It is up to each of us to try. ... Let's keep putting one foot in front of the other until we have accomplished all we deserve — and all our children for seven generations deserve."
Meanwhile, numerous organizations are planning protests if and when full-scale bombing of Iraq begins. Local groups plan to rally at the Federal Building to voice their opposition. And a San Francisco group is calling for a general strike on the morning of the next business day following the attack. Citizens are urged to not go to work or school, but rather go downtown for a massive protest.
"If the government and corporations won't stop the war, we'll shut down the warmakers," says a flier from Direct Action to Stop the War (www.actagainstwar.org)."We will impose real economic, social and political costs and stop business as usual until the war stops." — Ted Taylor
That fundamental character includes a natural woodsy area with a creek, cedar chip trails and meadows. The area, formally known as Frank Kinney Park, was slated for improvements in the 1989 parks and recreation master plan. It was later approved by a mayor's committee to be added to a list of park areas that would undergo development, which would be made using $200,000 from the 1998 Parks and Open Space bond measure.
Robin Hostick, landscape architect for the city of Eugene's Parks and Open Space Planning department, says the initial design process happens in three workshops, where community members participate in brainstorming and commenting on design ideas.
In workshops last fall and at the end of February, Hostick presented ideas for development, including the addition of concrete sidewalks and a small playground. Since this is a public space, the hope, according to Hostick, is to provide accessibility and "different kinds of uses for different kinds of people." But neighbors at the workshops reacted in strong opposition to proposed changes.
Neighbor Zane Cornett says, "We're not looking at the tradeoffs [of development]." Regarding accessibility, he says that while the intent is good, it brings into question the issue of parking, of which there is little in the Rexius Loop area. This could mean parking problems or further development to accommodate more cars.
Residents have suggested that rather than using the $200,000 to develop the park, the money could be used to maintain or improve existing elements, such as the cedar chip trails that tend to flood in fall and winter.
Hostick understands concerns for low or even no impact development, but also feels a responsibility to provide a service to as many citizens as possible. He says, "My feeling is that we've gone through an iteration of design that is one of the most ecologically sensitive designs we've ever done." Any actual construction wouldn't happen until 2004; discussion will continue in the final workshop, still to be scheduled. — Bobbie Willis
Wes Brain, who works for the Safety Department at Southern Oregon University, says the arrest for disorderly conduct was a complete surprise.
He was videotaping the "Books Not Bombs" high school and college student protest for the Rogue Valley Independent Media Center to be broadcast on local cable access TV. The footage he shot "shows some of the things not reported by the local mainstream media like the SWAT team that was called in from a neighboring county to square off against our peacefully protesting students," he says. "This footage looks like it is taken from another planet. I mean can you imagine riot cops squaring off against young kids?"
Brain says his videotape also shows "the tail-end of a scuffle in the street which shows the Ashland police throwing people to the ground. I did not capture the beginning of this incident but do have an interview of someone who says she saw it from the start and that the police instigated the scuffle."
He says he has no idea why he was arrested, "but I am fearful that the war on terrorism is more a war against anybody who speaks out against the war-mongering and foolish, corporate bought-and-paid-for leadership of this country."
His arraignment was set for Tuesday, March 11 in Municipal Court. As of press time, newspapers in Ashland and Medford had not reported on the arrest, and Ashland Municipal Judge Allen Drescher said he had not heard of the case. — TJT
Harvell says that Melange has been selling the stretchy cotton/Lycra Hard Tail designed pants online at www.melange4women.com with three styles ranging in price from $48 to $62. They've been doing well "for months now," according to Harvell. How well? Harvell says, "It's probably about 60 percent of our business."
"Yoga is sweeping the country," says Harvell. "These pants are good for working out, and good for just going around town." — BW
Although the American Pediatrics Academy recommends a full year of breastfeeding for optimum child health, most American women wean well before then. The reason? Employment. In fact, most women return to work before their babies are three months old. Women with children below age 3 comprise the fastest growing segment of today's labor force, contributing to the fact that the U.S. has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world.
Yet, a new bill before the Oregon State Legislature will make it legal for women to breastfeed or express milk on the job.
Not only does breastfeeding increase bonding, but it reduces the risk of illnesses from minor colds and ear infections to diabetes, childhood cancer, and SIDS, in addition to having many health benefits for the mother.
Even so, it wasn't until 1999 that Oregon made it legal for women to nurse in public. The new bill will make it mandatory for employers to allow women to nurse during unpaid breaks on the job, providing it will not cause the employer "undue hardship."
If passed, this bill, handed to the General Government Committee just last Friday, will bring Oregon into compliance with the International Labor Organization (ILO) Maternity Protection Convention, which states that employers should provide a clean, safe and private place to breastfeed or express milk, and time during the workday to do so.
The ILO statement is an international agreement that was first adopted in 1919. Three quarters of the world's nations have ratified it. The U.S. has not. But so far, nine states have adopted some sort of language into their constitutions that give women nursing rights in the workplace.
In 1999, when Oregon passed SB 744, allowing women to publicly nurse, the state also passed Executive Order 99-10, which made it a law that state employees could breastfeed or express milk at work. Now Senate Bill 783 would extend that right to all women workers. Oregon also offers a "mother-friendly workplace" designation to businesses that accommodate nursing mothers.
In addition to privacy and break time, the bill also calls on employers to allow a temporary change of job duties if that will make things easier for mother and boss. The bill also prohibits discrimination against nursing moms.
If employers balk too hard, the bill explicitly states that they don't have to go along with it if providing rest periods causes "undue hardship on the operation" of their business. The cost is minimal or nil; just an electrical outlet for an electrical breast pump, or a partition for privacy, so women don't have to nurse or express in a bathroom stall.
The bill was brought to the Legislature by the same women who brought the 1999 bill: nurses and lactation consultants in conjunction with breastfeeding advocates La Leche League and other groups.
Two of those lactation consultants are Martha Johnson and Dixie Whetsell. Johnson, who authored this bill, was recently honored with a Shining Light award from La Leche League for her work with women in and around Eugene. A longtime advocate for nursing moms, Johnson feels that this bill is important because it protects women on the job. In one case, she says, a woman worked in an office that was open to breastfeeding, "but when one co-worker complained, that affected the boss who said 'no' after that."
Whetsell points out that although lots of employers are making accommodations, "It all too often happens that those accommodations depend on who's in charge. But that can change. It shouldn't be that way," she says.
"Employers don't understand the great benefits they will reap from supporting breastfeeding mothers," says Whetsell. Studies show that women who nurse or express milk at work are more loyal to their employers and more productive, because the babies are healthier, which reduces absenteeism.
Maternity leave in the U.S. is still very short compared to other nations, and most often unpaid, which means many new mothers have to return to work sooner than they'd like. Although it is a growing trend for women who work in offices to bring their young infants with them, still many employers do not allow that.
Other women have jobs that make it impossible to bring children with them, and even expressing milk is extremely difficult to incorporate into their workdays.
"A firefighter or police officer must disrobe in order to express milk," says Whetsell. Therefore, she needs flexibility in her break times. Other occupations, such as teaching or providing health care, also allow little privacy.
"Wherever a woman can work is where she should be able to express or nurse," says Whetsell.
SB 783 Chief Sponsor Ginny Burdick says she signed onto the bill because "Study after study shows how much healthier nursed babies are."
Because the financial cost to the employer is little or nothing, and because they are protected by the "undue hardship" clause, there is great support in Salem for this bill. It already has a majority of signatures in both the House and Senate.
Tony Corcoran, who is a co-sponsor and also chairs the General Government Committee, says, "While there are many employers who make a work-friendly environment for nursing mothers, there are other employers whose bottom line doesn't include empathy toward nursing mothers and they need to be nudged."
But the real challenge this bill faces is that the sheer volume of bills before the House regarding all of the state budget cuts may mean it never gets voted on. "It's important to contact your legislator to let them know it matters," says Johnson.
VAN FRANK CARLSON
— Paul Neevel
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