Images of Buffy Wicks, a California Assemblymember, casting a vote on the legislative floor with her swaddled, one-month old baby, have spread across social media this week.
Wicks, a Democrat in the California State Assembly, was on maternity leave when some key pieces of legislation regarding family leave and affordable housing came up, that she desperately wanted to see passed.
Wicks had given birth to her immunocompromised daughter, Elly, at the end of July, and had applied to the House Speaker, Anthony Rendon, to vote remotely. The request was denied.
Having recently given birth to a baby with jaundice wasn’t deemed a sufficient reason for casting a vote remotely, a privilege that had been granted to other COVID-19 “high-risk” members.
Wicks told The Lily, that her doctors had told her it was imperative to keep Elly fed and nourished at all times, on a regular schedule. Since giving birth, she had not left Elly’s side.
“My daughter’s immune system is basically nonexistent,” Wicks said. “But I was told that maternity leave didn’t qualify for in-proxy voting.”
Wicks’ colleagues told her that her vote could be a decider in a key family leave bill and an affordable housing bill, and she would need to be there to cast her vote.
Wicks drove from her home in Oakland to Sacramento with Elly in tow to be there.
Mommy & soon-to-be mommy came to Sacramento today to do the people’s work! pic.twitter.com/vIt6zlR7IM— Buffy Wicks (@BuffyWicks) September 1, 2020
“I was in the middle of feeding my daughter when this bill came up,” a masked Wicks said on Monday night on the legislative floor, with baby Elly in her arms.
“Elly agrees that we absolutely need to pass this bill…and I’m going to go finish feeding my daughter.”
The family leave bill, which would legislate more businesses to provide paid parental leave to their employees, needed 41 votes to pass through the House of Representatives. The bill passed, with Wicks being the 41st vote.
The situation generated widespread outrage, with Wicks receiving support from several high-profile individuals across social media, including Hillary Clinton.
California Assemblymember @buffywicks was told that having recently given birth wasn’t sufficient excuse to cast a vote remotely.— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) September 1, 2020
So she brought her newborn daughter to the floor to weigh in on an important housing bill. 💪https://t.co/elofHmIcxl pic.twitter.com/ZQf9F10qKE
House Speaker Anthony Rendon, a fellow Democrat, was forced to apologise to Wicks for not considering her situation fully.
“I want to make a full apology to Assemblymember Wicks. My intention was never to be inconsiderate toward her, her role as a legislator, or her role as mother,” he 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. I commit to doing better.”
Wicks said she accepts the apology and is looking forward to creating “policies that meet working parents’ needs, during this health crisis and beyond — not just for the members of the state Legislature but also for the Californians that we serve.”