Respect The Breast: Amtrak Needs To Change Its Breastfeeding Policy

  • by: Moon Aku
  • recipient: Wick Moorman, President and CEO of Amtrak

On February 12, 2017, I was traveling on Amtrak when I started to breastfeed my hungry child. I was not disruptive, I was not rude, and I was not doing anything illegal. Nonetheless, I was embarrassed, harassed, and had my legal rights violated by conductor Robert Baker and his attendent.  


When the passenger attendant came by to check our tickets, he saw that I was breastfeeding, and asked if I needed a blanket. I said, "No, thank you," and continued feeding my son. He proceeded to let me know I was on a "family oriented train." I said, "Good, because I'm feeding my family." He responded, "You need to get a blanket on." To which I responded, "Dude, you don't want to go there with me." He walked off in a huff and I continued to nurse my son.

I sat there for a moment then decided I needed to report the attendent's behavior. I asked to speak with the conductor, but when he came out, he was holding a tablecloth for me to wear so that I would stop "exposing" myself. I let him know that I did not want or need the tablecloth. He persisted, saying that “you will not expose yourself on my train.” I let him know I was going to nurse my child every time he got hungry. 

Under federal law a breastfeeding mother is allowed to feed her child any place she is allowed to be. The Amtrak train qualifies as that. If Amtrak wanted to say that their trains are private property and not federal, the train was headed out of San Antonio, Texas. Under Sec. 165.002. of Texas state Law entitled: RIGHT TO BREAST-FEED, a mother is entitled to breast-feed her baby in any location in which the mother is authorized to be.

I called Amtrak's customer service line to let them know about my horrible experience on one of their trains, and asked my friends to do the same. One of my friends was told that Amtrak's policy is to escort a breastfeeding mom to a private area on the train so that others are not bothered by her breastfeeding.

Another woman was told that Amtrak asks breastfeeding mothers to be seated in a designated area to breastfeed. When she pressed the customer service representative whether that was an official policy, she was told, "No I can't find any specific guideline, but that's only what's best for every passenger to be comfortable!"

It is of GREAT concern that a company that reports an average daily ridership of thousands of individuals per day would have such an outrageous policy on dealing with breastfeeding mothers.

Sign this urgent petition today to demand that Amtrak:

1. Post on their website and social media sites a detailed breastfeeding policy that reflects the federal and other state laws to protect the breastfeeding mother.

2. Employees get infractions for violating the breastfeeding policy. The infractions/punishment increase with continuous violations of said policy.

3. Conductor Robert Baker and the attendant publicly apologize to me for attempting to force me to cover up and speaking to me in a scolding manner. 

On February 12th of 2017 a breastfeeding mother used your services at Amtrak in her journeys. This mother was not disruptive, this mother was not rude, this mother was not doing anything illegal. Nonetheless, this mother was embarrassed, harassed, and had her legal rights violated by conductor Robert Baker and his attendent.Throughout the course of conversation she was told to cover herself on "the conductor's train" in an act of already offensive machismo, then she was brought a table cloth and told to cover herself. She was then told she would not "expose herself". A full, personal account of the interaction can be found at : https://www.facebook.com/Earthchild.Moondaughter/posts/10158145124175858


Both complaining parties were males who should've been focused on their own work, and not limiting the legal rights of a breastfeeding mother. While the altercation was obviously offensive in nature, that is the least of it. Your employees broke federal laws protected by the ADA. Read that again, your employee broke federal law, as well as Texas state law.


Under federal law a breastfeeding mother is allowed to feed her child any place she is allowed to be. Your train qualifies as that. If Amtrak wanted to say that their trains are private property and not federal, your train was headed out of San Antonio, Texas.Under Sec. 165.002. of Texas state Law entitled: RIGHT TO BREAST-FEED. A mother is entitled to breast-feed her baby in any location in which the mother is authorized to be.


Added by Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 600, Sec. 1, eff. Aug. 28, 1995.


As you can see, this law is not new. When Moon Aku reached out to customer service to resolve the issue she was told that going to another area was their individual company policy regarding breastfeeding by one customer service rep, and another told her they were not allowed to interfere with breastfeeding mothers. So Amtrak, which is it? Regardless of company policy, you are not legally able to mandate where a breastfeeding mother can sit or go. So if it is your policy- we demand a change. We demand you respect the law, and the rights of breastfeeding mothers. We demand disciplinary action in the case of employees who repeatedly harass breastfeeding mothers. We demand a public acknowledgement of your employee's failure to respect the law, and assurance that training will be in place to ensure that. We encourage someone from your HR department to reach out to the United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC) or another organization that can help educate you on those rights as well as the reasoning behind them. We understand that times are changing and occasionally laws outpace the people learning to abide by them, but that is no excuse. 


It is of GREAT concern that a company that reported an average daily ridership of 1,634 individuals per day would have such an outrageous policy on dealing with breastfeeding mothers.


We see Amtrak's lack of training and response in this situation as an endorsement of his behavior.



Moon Aku has reached out to Amtrak and received a $50.00 voucher towards another trip with Amtrak "for her trouble" but no public apology, no education of employees, no policy changes, and no acknowledgement of their employee breaking federal law by discriminating against a breastfeeding mother. Why would she or any breastfeeding Mother trust traveling with your company again? The $50.00 payoff was a cheap platitude, not to mention implied confession, to try to sweep the discriminatory practice under the rug. This letter is to remind Amtrak of the law and the rights regarding breastfeeding. If you think this is an issue that people are going to let be swept under the rug while you metaphorically tell breastfeeding mothers to sit at the back of the bus: you are wrong.


We are demanding that Amtrak:


1. Post your detailed breastfeeding policy on your website and social media sites. It needs to reflect the federal and other state laws to protect the breastfeeding mother.


2. Employees get infractions for violating the breastfeeding policy. The infractions/punishment increase with continuous violations of said policy.


3. Moon Aku will receive a public apology from Amtrak, Robert Baker, and Tony for attempting to force her to cover up and demeaning her by speaking to her in a scolding manner. Amtrak also responded with a dismissive gesture by offering her a voucher and saying "It's a fine line."


Amtrak needs to understand that we will be calling for a boycott if these demands aren't met.



Signed:

Update #11 years ago
I spoke with Senior Manager, Office of Customer Relations, John Wojciechowski from Amtrak. He stated that they are not allowed to share the disciplinary actions taken with employees but assured they spoke with the conductor. He is not the person who can decide what goes on their site but he will request that something brief gets added so parents and employees know Amtrak's stance.
We are still pushing, maybe that will help them decide to place a statement on their site.
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