WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley and Representative Val Hoyle (D-OR-04) teamed up to introduce bicameral, bipartisan legislation to address the urgent need for clear rules and regulations allowing flight crews to safely pump breastmilk aboard aircraft. With the PUMP Act of 2022 included in the Fiscal Year 2023 year-end federal funding bill, millions of new mothers are now guaranteed the right to pump at work. Unfortunately, flight crews were left out of this historic win for working parents—even as thousands are currently taking maternity leave to care for their new babies. The AIR PUMP Act will right this wrong and extend these protections to all workers, including flight crews.
“I fought for years to get the PUMP Act passed, and while it was an historic win for millions of families, we cannot stop there—we must extend these protections to hardworking flight crews,” said Senator Merkley. “No one should be forced to stop nursing by their employer. This bill will close the loophole excluding flight crews from the PUMP Act, and I won’t stop fighting until all working mothers, in every sector, have the protections to remain in the workforce and continue pumping to provide for their infants.”
“All workers deserve to have breastmilk pumping rights in the workplace, including flight attendants and pilots. As a working mom, I am proud to introduce the AIR PUMP Act with Senator Merkley to ensure we have breastmilk pumping protections in place for flight crews,” said Rep. Hoyle. “This important legislation will help increase the diversity of our workforce and ensure that working moms have the flexibility they need.”
Excluding this workforce does not bode well for the future of our aviation workforce, as airlines continue to face major staffing challenges with demand for air travel rising sharply. Forcing new parents to decide between quitting their jobs to stay home to breastfeed their infants, or keeping their jobs but risking getting fired for pumping is not only outrageous and unacceptable, but will also make it more challenging for airlines to recruit and retain employees. The new AIR PUMP Act will ensure pumping mothers returning to the aviation workforce will be federally protected to pump at their place of work.
In the Senate, the AIR PUMP Act is also cosponsored by Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), John Fetterman (D-PA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Cory Booker (D-NJ).
In the House, the AIR PUMP Act is also cosponsored by Representatives Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Jasmine Crockett (D-TX-30), Frederica Wilson (D-FL-24), Seth Moulton (D-MA-06), Seth Magaziner (D-RI-02), Dina Titus (D-NV-01), Katie Porter (D-CA-47), Yadira Caraveo (D-CO-08), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR-01), Jamaal Bowman (D-NY-16), Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-OR-05), Valerie Foushee (D-NC-04), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA-07), Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ-07), Sylvia Garcia (D-TX-29), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-09), Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-NM-03), Maxwell Frost (D-FL-10), André Carson (D-IN-07), Zach Nunn (R-IA-03), Darren Soto (D-FL-09), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-01), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI-12), Chris Pappas (D-NH-01), Barbara Lee (D-CA-12), Lloyd Doggett (D-TX-37), Jonathan Jackson (D-IL-01), Nikema Williams (D-GA-05), Sydney Kamlager-Dove (D-CA-37), Emilia Sykes (D-OH-13), Nanette Barragán (D-CA-44), Andrea Salinas (D-OR-06), Madeleine Dean (D-PA-04), Stephen Lynch (D-MA-08), and Hank Johnson (D-GA-04).
Merkley, Hoyle, and their allies will be pushing to include the bill as a provision in the upcoming FAA reauthorization.
“I pumped while working as a Flight Attendant, just like thousands of other Flight Attendants who try to make it work, and it’s only become harder for Flight Attendant moms with full flights,” said Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, representing 50,000 Flight Attendants at 19 airlines. “Sadly, Flight Attendants have been threatened with discipline for doing what is best for their health and the baby in order to sustain their milk supply. The Air PUMP Act would give Flight Attendants and pilots the right to pump without fear of being fired by their airline. Senator Jeff Merkley and Representative Val Hoyle are advancing a key issue for women in aviation – and women we hope to attract to our jobs – with the right to safely pump in our workplace.”
“It’s time we ensure that the airplane cabin is an inclusive environment for working mothers, as if being a new mother is not already hard enough. The AIR PUMP Act will make it easier for nursing Flight Attendants to continue breastfeeding when they return to work and to avoid health consequences such as painful infections and diminished milk supply. We should not have to choose between supporting and feeding our family and should not be subject to discipline for tending to a physiological need. The AIR PUMP Act ensures there are no impacts on safety, service, or the operation, nor does it cost anything. APFA thanks Senator Merkley and Representative Val Hoyle for their persistence on behalf of working mothers, and we look forward to seeing this bill become law,” said Julie Hedrick, National President, Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA).
“Flight crews are the only private-sector workers in America without access to reasonable accommodations and the right to pump breast milk at work—an absolutely unacceptable fact that forces working mothers to make health choices based on the bosses’ rules,” said John Samuelsen, International President of the Transport Workers Union of America (TWU). “The AIR PUMP Act is no-brainer, necessary legislation that will right this wrong. By ensuring flight crews have reasonable time and a place other than a restroom to express breast milk, the AIR PUMP Act will allow nursing mothers return to the workplace sooner—at minimal expense to the air carriers. The TWU, including our Working Women’s Committee, has long called for this basic workplace protection, and we are eager to see this bill become law.”
“The PUMP Act that went into effect earlier this month was a victory for 9 million working parents, but singled out flight attendants and pilots as the exception to the rule. This injustice doesn’t fly with us. We must pass the AIR PUMP Act to ensure that nursing parents who work on aircraft are allowed to pump safely on the job, just the same as workers in other industries,” said Transportation Trades Department President, Greg Regan.
“The Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA) has long championed efforts that provide pilots the opportunity to fulfill their family responsibilities while pursuing their careers,” said Capt. Jason Ambrosi, President of Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l. “As the world’s largest pilots’ union, no one is more committed than ALPA to representing the interests of all pilots – and attracting the best and the brightest to ensure the future of the profession is strong. Thank you to Sen. Jeff Merkley and Rep. Val Hoyle for their leadership to grant breastfeeding pilots the affirmative right to pump after returning to work. This is important to many pilots today and will help to increase equity in our industry. ALPA has a long history of advocacy and outreach work to ensure we’re expanding the applicant pool and fighting for pilots – women and men – who are dedicated to their careers and their families.”
“The recent passage of the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections (PUMP) for Nursing Mothers Act was cause for great celebration and a monumental step toward eliminating barriers to breastfeeding for working mothers. Today we applaud the introduction of the AIR PUMP Act which would provide to pilots and flight attendants the same workplace protections that millions of workers now have. We thank Sen. Jeff Merkley (OR) and Rep. Val Hoyle (OR-4) for their efforts to ensure that all workers have the right to breaktime and space to pump breastmilk,” said Vania Leveille, Senior Legislative Counsel, American Civil Liberties Union.
“Thanks to the recent passage of the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act, millions more people have the right to break time and space to pump at work and nourish their babies. This is a basic right that should be afforded to all workers in this country, including flight attendants and pilots, ” said Sarah Brafman, National Policy Director, A Better Balance. “No one in this country should be forced to choose between breastfeeding and their job. Thanks to Sen. Jeff Merkley and Rep. Val Hoyle air crewmembers will be able to get the protections they need and deserve with the AIR PUMP Act.”
“For working parents, the ability to express milk during the workday has a tremendous impact on their infant’s health and their own health and wellbeing. There is the added benefit of increasing overall breastfeeding rates, which is a public health imperative. Last year, the PUMP Act was signed into law, significantly narrowing the coverage gap that left millions without federal protection of their right to lactation accommodations. This was a critical step forward, but flight attendants and pilots still do not have these basic protections,” said Nikia Sankofa, Executive Director of the U.S. Breastfeeding Committee. “The U.S. Breastfeeding Committee is committed to ensuring that every lactating employee has access to the policy protections they deserve. We are grateful to champions in the House and Senate for their steadfast commitment to supporting breastfeeding and their leadership on the AIR PUMP Act.”
“We applaud Senator Merkley and Representative Hoyle for continuing the fight to ensure each and every breastfeeding parent in this country is afforded the basic right to pump milk at work while they are away from their nursing infant. Flight crewmembers deserve the same dignity and respect as all other breastfeeding workers, and the AIR PUMP Act will secure that right,” said Liz Morris, Deputy Director of the Center for WorkLife Law.