California State Assemblymember Buffy Wicks brought her month-old newborn to an in-person vote on Monday, after she was denied a request to vote by proxy because maternity leave isn’t eligible for accommodation—only covid-19 risk. That’s despite the fact that the unknowns regarding covid-19 could fill an NFL football stadium, and the same goes for postpartum bodies. And also, the Republicans of the California Senate have, in fact, been voting remotely!
Politico reported that Wicks brought her baby from Oakland to Sacramento for an all-day assembly session after her request was shot down “on the grounds that maternity leave is not eligible for proxy voting.” For those who’ve never had the pleasure, recovery from even the smoothest childbirth takes weeks and you typically don’t have a lot of spare time. Apparently, proxy voting is subject to approval by the Assembly Speaker, Anthony Rendon, and you’re only eligible if you specifically are “at a higher risk from the COVID-19 virus.” The speaker’s spokesperson told Politico that it was so sorry, tough shit, basically:
“The speaker understands that members are committed to performing their legislative duties, while still trying to minimize risk of Covid-19 exposure. The house resolution pertaining to proxy voting is very specific, in that only members at a higher risk from Covid-19 will be considered eligible for proxy voting,” Talbot said in an email. “This bar of eligibility was always intended to be high, to ensure the protection of our legislative process.”
What really makes this rich is that the upper house of the California legislature, the Senate, isn’t even fooling around with proxies. They’re just doing straight-up remote voting, and Republicans were in fact barred from the floor after one of their own tested positive for the virus. So, clearly, it’s quite possible.
Wicks also attended the assembly in-person in June, while several months pregnant—despite the fact that we have absolutely no idea what Covid-19 does to pregnant bodies—in order to advocate for a measure that would have a constitutional amendment allowing assemblymembers to vote remotely in emergencies on the next ballot.
Family leave should be a routine aspect of every workplace in America and it’s ridiculous that anywhere would refuse to accommodate it—much less the people making the laws that govern family leave.