California legislator Buffy Wicks felt like she had no other option but to bring her newborn to a late-night vote on housing after she was denied a postal vote.
Citing COVID-19 concerns, Wicks – who gave birth to a daughter in late July via C-section – had requested to vote by proxy two weeks prior.
She was subsequently denied the option because maternity leave was deemed not to be a high-risk category.
A fervent believer in housing for all, Wicks took it upon herself to drive the two-hour trip to Sacramento with her one-month-old daughter Elly.
Carrying her blanket-swaddled daughter in one hand and affixing her mask with the other, the image of a woman still on maternity leave double-jobbing on the legislative floor sparked visceral rage from working mothers everywhere.
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“Please, please, please pass this bill," she said, holding her infant in her arms.” 櫓 “And now, I'm going to go finish feeding my daughter." #California #Assemblymember #BuffyWicks made headlines after she wasn’t allowed to #vote by #proxy amid the #COVID19 #pandemic So, she brought her 1-month-old #baby with her to the #statehouse. Buffy, who used to work for #President @BarackObama, posted a photo of her holding baby #Elly before #debating #legislation on Monday. Wow! What a powerful gesture. #NewMom #Politics #Coronavirus #Pandemic ❤️ #Government “Yep, I’m here! (And so is Elly)” she tweeted. @TodayShow @asmbuffywicks
The housing bill would have allowed the construction of duplexes in areas zoned for single-family homes.
“I was in the middle of feeding my daughter when this bill came up,” a masked Wicks said on Monday night while Elly stirred in her arms. “Elly agrees that we absolutely need to pass this bill. Please, please, please pass this bill... and I’m going to go finish feeding my daughter.”
California assembly speaker Anthony Rendon, a fellow Democrat, has since apologized to Wicks on Tuesday night after a national outcry, including from former presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton.
“My intention was never to be inconsiderate toward [Wicks], her role as a legislator, or her role as a mother,” Rendon said in a statement.
“Inclusivity and electing more women into politics are core elements of our Democratic values. Nevertheless, I failed to make sure our process took into account the unique needs of our members. The Assembly needs to do better.”
On Wednesday morning, Wicks told MSNBC’s Hallie Jackson that she was “very concerned about the coronavirus risks” and mostly remained in her office all day on Monday, emerging only for key votes.
With her baby in tow, Wicks also cast a deciding yes vote on a California expanded-paid-leave bill: “It’s either ironic or serendipitous,” she told MSNBC. “Had I not been there, it potentially wouldn’t have passed.”
Wicks’s husband, Peter Ambler, tweeted: “My wife packed up our one-month-old Elly and every baby calming apparatus we own and drove through the wildfire smoke to Sacramento.” Wicks described her conundrum thusly: “What do I do, stay home or not vote on (bills) when they’re going to be tight, or go up and bring my daughter with me?”
Ideally, Wicks wouldn’t have had to make that choice. Perhaps keen to show the calm strength and resilience of a working mother (a similar scene featuring Jacinta Ardern comes to mind) but the footage of Wicks and Elly on the legislative floor showcased in stark reality the need for parental leave provisions.
“We’re feeling a lot of stress right now as a society,” Wicks said on MSNBC. “The pandemic has really highlighted the acuteness of that issue. Fundamentally, we need broader public policies to help working families.”
Main image by @kreatable