Thursday, June 24, 2010

Update to the Red Robin Breastfeeding Discrimination Story-This is GOOD!!

After many emailed, tweeted, Facebooked, and phoned Red Robin our efforts it seems have paid off! I'm so proud of what a community can do when we stand behind what is right.

Update 06/24/2010: I got a call from Liz at corporate at 10:00am today. It was a very positive phone call! Here's the conversation that took place:

Liz: First off, is now a good time to talk? I know you're a mom and really busy.

Me: Yeah, now is good, my littlest is asleep and the older one is watching TV with his uncle.

Liz: Okay. We are so sorry about what happened the other day. There's a lot of information about what happened and I wanted to hear it from you. Is that okay?

Me: Yes, that's just fine. Tuesday night I went on a date with my husband. We had my daughter with me and she got hungry so I started to feed her. At first I was pulling my shirt up but since we were at a booth it was really awkward and I was really exposed. Being in that position made my shirt be in my armpits. So I decided to bring my breast over my neckline and nurse that way. Then the manager came up to us and said somebody had complained and asked us to cover up. I said no and my husband informed the manager that it was my legal right to nurse wherever I wanted. The manager said he understood that but this was a family restaurant and he had a shirt I could use to cover up. I said we would just leave.

Yesterday I posted about my experience on Facebook and started talking to my friends about it. One of my friends found out the law in Washington is that managers, business owners, or employees cannot ask a woman to leave, stop breastfeeding, or cover up. I knew that my right to breastfeed was protected but I thought that a manager could ask you to leave. Once I learned the full extent of the law I contacted Red Robin's Guest Services about it. I got a call from Guest Services telling me they would have the Regional Director call me. 

She did call me, and I'm sorry, but I don't remember her name. She told me she was sorry, and that she was going to talk to the manager who had talked to me, and that they were sending me a gift card. However, she also said that it's not really the job of the managers to learn the laws. She also didn't give me any assurance it wouldn't happen again. She said that the managers are supposed to make the majority happy, so if a lot of people complain about a breastfeeding that the manager would probably talk to the breastfeeding mom about covering up. I feel that's not good enough. So, yeah, that's what's been going on.

Liz: Well, I again wanted to say how sorry I am that this happened. I'm a mom who has breastfed and I know how important it is. Moms who are breastfeeding should be able to feed their babies wherever they need to. The manager was in the wrong and we are going to instigate a company wide training to teach about what to do when customers complain about breastfeeding.

Me: I think that sounds like a great idea, that would be wonderful.

Liz: We have training for our managers already to train them on local laws and such, we contract with an independent third party to do our training. We will be sure to make an emphasis on breastfeeding training. We'll start immediately at the Kennewick Red Robin, but I want to let you know it's going to take a little bit of time to implement it nationwide.

Me: I understand, it's a big company. I'm glad you're implementing this.

Liz: Now, I want to make it very clear that I'm not making excuses, but it's a very sticky situation for our managers to deal with. It's hard to make everyone happy. Do you have any ideas on how to help?

Me: Yes, I do. First of all, there is a website for Washington breastfeeding laws that offers little cards you can print out. Mothers can use them to inform others about their rights and managers can give them to customers who complain to explain the laws. That way your managers can say, "I'm sorry, but it's the law," without the customer getting mad at the restaurant.

Liz: That's a great idea!

Me: They also have fliers you can print up and display in a prominent place of your restaurant informing customers of the law. Also, I know that breastfeeding laws are different everywhere. In Washington mother's rights are protected but in Idaho I know managers can ask you to leave. It would be really nice if Red Robin was a breastfeeding friendly restaurant everywhere, regardless of the laws.

Liz: That would be good. Do you have the website for those cards? That's a great idea.

Me: I don't know it off the top of my head, but I can email it to you. Do you want me to send it to guest relations or do you have a specific address you want me to use?

Liz: You can use guest relations, but here's my email address, it's really easy. [Email address]. If you have any ideas you can send them here, we want to hear them and we want to have an open dialouge.

Me: I can't think of anything else right now, but I'll ask my friends if they have any ideas. I wanted to say that I really appreciate this phone call, thank you for doing all this.

Liz: My pleasure, we just want everyone to be happy. 


So overall I'm really happy with how Red Robin is handling this now. I don't think I'll organize an official nurse-in but I think it would be a good idea for mothers to go to Red Robin and nurse. Also, let them know how you feel about how you want them to uphold a mother's right to breastfeed, whether it's state law or not.

If they don't do what they say they're going to then we can take this further. But as of right now I'm feeling pretty happy.

Now please go back to the Red Robin Comment form and tell them how happy you are with their response! 

Here's mine:

I am writing you again in response to the breastfeeding discrimination incident at your Kennewick, Washtington location on 6/22

I wanted to let you know that I am thrilled with your corporate manager Liz's response to my friend Krista. Her sensitivity and understanding of the law was the kind of customer service I like to see in places I frequent.

I am very pleased to hear that Red Robin will be redoubling their efforts to make sure managers are trained in the local laws that protect a woman's right to breastfeed in their restaurants.

I would encourage you to go one step further and make Red Robin a breastfeeding friendly business, by supporting the right of moms and babies. If you decide to adopt company wide policies that are mom and baby friendly please publicize it! We would love to know. And I will make sure to share your support of breastfeeding with my blog and Twitter followers as widely as I did my criticism of this incident.

My family's tradition of celebrating the children's birthdays at your restaurant is still up in the air until I see how all of this pans out.  I hope that you are true to your word and work to make Red Robin and true "family restaurant"

Nichol Miller

From breastfeeding rights to birth choice and safety

They are all feminist issues!! Bodily autonomy and the right to how we use our bodies, respond to them, and allow them to work is a human right.

Some states get this when it comes to breastfeeding like I mentioned in my last post about Washington state's breastfeeding law, but NO WHERE do they seem get it when it comes to birth.  And by they I mean the laws protecting a woman's right to choose, not only IF she has her child, but where, when, how, and with whom she can birth her baby.

How doctors like this or this are allowed anywhere near birthing mothers in our country is beyond me. When we have one of the highest maternal death rates in the industrialized world, a cesarean rate that is twice the WHO recommended value, and more babies born premature due to interventions than could possibly be safe why aren't the powers that be doing something about it?  Instead we are allowing doctors to dictate to women how they will give birth using documents like this!

Famed midwife Ina May Gaskin whose birth center The Farm in Tennessee has a cesarean rate of under 5% has been working hard to bring to light the dangers in modern obstetrics and how in the United States we seem to be blissfully unaware of the unreasonably high death rates of moms and babies. Her projected called The Safe Mother's Quilt was started to bring to light the severity of the situation.  By raising awareness of this hidden risk to our nations women and children she hopes to see changes made in policy and procedures governing the management of birth in our nations hospitals. Take a look at the fact sheet she has put together. So much of this report is not readily known by women going into hospitals to have their babies. But it should be.

With the recent release of the Amnesty International report on the crisis in maternal health care here in the US, those of us in the natural birth circles are hoping more prominent and influential people will step up and make changes. But when the attitudes of OB/Gyns continues to be one of disdain and disregard women who wish to birth in a hospital will continue to face the risks of unnecessary interventions, over managed medical responses to labor, and even unnecessary high risk surgery.

This article in the NY Times did a really good job outlining some of the risks and causes of our higher rates.

Someone once said that a good way to judge how an OB will treat a woman in labor is to ask them what they think about doulas.  I recommend that if you are expecting, plan to deliver with an OB, in a hospital or attached birth center asking them how they feel about birth plans, doulas, and informed consent.

***I just want to say that there are certainly cases where interventions and cesareans are 100% medically necessary.  But the World Health Organization says that 15% is the rate that should not be crossed for cesarean deliveries.  That rate gives the best outcomes of both maternal and infant survivability. Currently in the US we are at an average of 32%. Some places are double that.***

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Breastfeeding Discrimination at Red Robin.

Let me start by saying that I chose to breastfeed all 3 of my children.
It was a rough road.
It took a lot of perseverance, strength, resolve, and more support than I ever thought I would need.
I nursed through inverted nipplescracked, bleeding, raw nipples, mastitis, plugged ducts, over active letdown, thrush, eczema on my nipples, contact dermatitis on my nipples, a tongue tied infant, emergency surgeries, plane trips both with my husband and alone, sleepless nights, teething, bad latches, nursing strikes and various other issues.

All that to say I KNOW IT'S HARD!!!  And I respect those who have tried and for what ever reason were unable to continue due any number of reasons.  However, Breastfeeding is the BIOLOGICAL NORM for humans.

What I do NOT respect though is our society's attitude about breastfeeding in public. Lack support from the community they live in is a primary reason women either choose not to breastfeed in the first place or give up and quit within the first few weeks or months. Support for the breastfeeding dyad is virtually non-existent in many areas of our country. Without that support it is very hard to be successful. Even though breastfeeding is the how our species is supposed to feed our young, it doesn't mean it comes naturally to every woman. Community support is vital to the successful breastfeeding and when the public and businesses discriminate against breastfeeding mothers, by segregating them, asking them to cover up, leave, move, or stop feeding their children that support is eroded.

Here is an example of someone being discriminated against just for feeding her child:

Recently a friend of mine, Krista, was on a date with her husband at the Kennewick, Washington Red Robin when her infant daughter needed to be fed. She was in a booth and had to lift baby up pretty high to accommodate her and be able to latch correctly.  She did not use a blanket or cover up and even though her baby was blocking nearly all of her breast from view, people in the restaurant evidently complained to the manager.  The manager came over to Krista and asked her to cover up saying repeatedly that they were in a "family restaurant".  Her husband explained to the manager the fact that what Krista was doing was protected by Washington state law. The manager did acknowledged that fact, but still insisted that she cover up even offering to bring her a shirt to use. What he didn't realize is that asking a woman to cover up while breastfeeding in the state of Washington is actually a violation of that woman's civil rights!  Rather than cause a scene my friends paid their bill and left cutting their evening short.  The whole situation didn't sit well with Krista or her husband.  She posted what happened on her Facebook page and sent an email to an email list we are both a part of.

The discussion on her Facebook status became really involved and heated. It quickly turned to a discussion about being discreet and modest vs what the law protects.  Modesty and discretion are hard to pin down. They are different for everyone.  In many cases no matter how little skin your showing the ACT of breastfeeding is still seen as immodest or disgusting in some way by someone.

This is why in 28 states (including Washington) breastfeeding is exempt from public indecency laws even if the breastfeeding mother has her entire breast and nipple showing during the process of feeding her child.

 Unfortunately the whole point of what happened was lost on many of the people commenting on this discussion.  The point is that the manager of Red Robin violated Washington law and Krista's civil rights.  When Krista contacted the corporate offices of Red Robin, her call was returned by a regional manager. This is what she told me happened.
"Their apology was (slightly paraphrased but true to feeling):
"We are so so sorry this happened, the Kennewick manager is going to be so embarrassed (I never got his name), and he'll know that's the law now"
BUT she also said (again, paraphrased but the feeling is correct):

"The manager's job is to make the majority comfortable, so if people are complaining about my nursing they're going to address me, and the managers won't always know what the law is."

She NEVER said they were going to implement a plan to educate all they're employees.
This in my opinion is inadequate.  Business in states where the laws protect women from discrimination or interference when breastfeeding should KNOW THE LAW and they should TRAIN THEIR EMPLOYEES.
It is incumbent on them not the mother to deal with those who complain and inform them of the laws in place that protect the mother's right to feed her child, however that mother needs to do so.

I've always been an advocate for a woman's right to feed her child however, whenever and where ever that child needs to be fed.  I don't discriminate against women who choose formula, or pump breast milk and feed their children from a bottle. Most businesses don't either, so why do they choose to single out and chastise women who are feeding their child the way nature intended? It is usually because another patron complained and they think that they are practicing good customer service by trying to fix the complaint.

The truth is that they are discriminating and judging one person's actions based on a the opinions of another.  It is because of the subjective nature of this whole argument that we need laws to protect our rights in the first place. And beyond the laws we as consumers need to DEMAND that the businesses we frequent know the laws, have a concrete policy in place for breastfeeding customers and employees, train every employee on those policies, and stop the discrimination.  If they don't then we have to let businesses know why we are choosing to end our patronage of their operation.

One way you can help is to contact Red Robin and ask them to create and implement a policy that follows the laws in the states where they operate their restaurants. Then ask them that they publish their breastfeeding policy, so we the consumers know that they are following the laws.

As of right now there isn't any plans for a 'nurse-in' as Krista isn't sure that's the right course of action.  Her desire is to make sure that the corporation is following the laws and not discriminating against other nursing mothers.  If any kind of protest is planned it will be a quiet presence to show Red Robin and their patrons that breastfeeding is NORMAL. No signs, No chants, No unruly conduct. Just a quiet show of support for a mom's right to feed her child.  If you are interested in knowing how things turn out or any plans follow me on Twitter @faedemere and as I will be updating everyone via tweets.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Not Me Monday- June 21st, 2010-- Midsummer

Mckmama- Not Me Monday

My "Not Me Monday" posts are usually full of sarcasm and snark about the lazy, imperfect, and comical moments in my otherwise pretty normal non-exciting life but today I did do something completely out of character for me. 

 I set my alarm and got up at FIVE AM IN THE MORNING!! ****gasp****  Yes me, up at quite literally dawn. ON PURPOSE. I'll let that sink in for a minute.  And to make it even more astonishing......the coffee wasn't ready yet!  Yes you read that right folks, Nichol was up before dawn on a MONDAY without any coffee at the ready, and it was entirely intentional!!

Some of you who know me might have figured out why, others are probably just still in shock that I would do something so outrageous, the rest of you probably don't care and are just playing along to humor me.  But in truth this conscious decision to get up before the sunrise is related to my effort to live more mindfully.  To recognize the passage of time rather than be swept up by it.  

So on today the longest day of the year 2010, I got up to watch the beginning of it and plan on spending this day being ever mindful of it's passage.  Starting tomorrow we loose daylight, and I for one hope I can make each moment count for the darkness comes back all too soon and way before we are ready! 

Happy Midsummer to everyone! May the Light bless you and yours.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Thought into energy into action

"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action. And because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique and if you block it, it will never exists through any other medium. The world will not have it. . It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable, nor how it compares with other expressions. It's your business to keep it yours, clearly and directly, and to keep the channel open." Martha Graham as quoted by Dr. Christiane Northrup at the end of her PBS special.
As part of looking inward and trying to find those thoughts that create the energy that moves towards action I wanted to share this quote.  I find it soooo very profound.   

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Re-reading the past--learning for the present--applying it to the future

Recently I decided to read back through some of my favorite novels from my childhood. To remember, and relive, to relearn, and rediscover all that joy and wonder they brought me back when I was 10 years old.  I decided to start with Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle In Time.

For those of you who have never read it, a brief summary:
  Meg Murray is a child who is different. She's smart and she knows it, but she doesn't like being asked to prove it. She feels awkward and ungainly. Her parents are both scientists, her father has recently disappeared. Her little brother, Charles, "knows" things and is oddly smart for his young age of 5, but doesn't talk in public so people think he's dumb.  3 odd visitors, old eccentric women, come to the Murray house one night and take the siblings along with a neighbor friend Calvin on a wild time traveling adventure through space to save Mr. Murray from the evil, dark, Black Thing and the IT. The very thing that causes Meg to feel pain on Earth, her differences, is what allows her to defeat the IT and save both her father and in the end her little brother as well.

There is a part in this book that really resonates with me. The IT is trying to explain to the children how the way of the collective, "one mind", hive mind is better. How IT has taken away all misery, suffering, illness and disease and that all they have to do is "rest".  No more decisions because IT makes them all, no more responsibilities because IT gives them all that they need, and no more worries because IT does all the thinking. All they have to do is GIVE IN.

IT says, "You see, what you will soon realize is that there is no need to fight me. Not only is there no need, but you will not have the slightest desire to do so. For why should you wish to fight someone who is here only to save you pain and trouble? For you, as well as for the rest of all the happy, useful people on this planet, I in my own strength, am willing to assume all the pain, all the responsibility, all the burdens of thought and decision.
Charles responds with, "We will make our own decisions, thank you."
IT replies, "But of course. And our decisions will be one, yours and mine. Don't you see how much better, how much easier for you that is?"
He goes on to try to get the children to say their multiplication tables together with IT.  They fight him off at this point.  Eventually Charles Wallace thinks he is stronger than IT and tries to face it head on. Giving himself to the force that eventually takes over his mind.

Later IT tries again using wrote learning to infect their minds and get them to be swayed to "give in"

This time Meg fights IT off by reciting the beginning of the Declaration of Independence.  
IT replies, "But that is exactly what we have .... Complete equality. Everybody exactly alike!"
"NO!" says Meg realizing the truth of what the founders meant. "Like and equal are not the same thing at all!!"

That truth was so very important to Ms. L'Engle's audience back in 1963 and it is ever more important today. It is absolutely possible to be 100% different from someone else and still be completely equal in the rights we possess.  And we do NOT need a larger than life governance telling us how to think, what to do when, how to behave, or where to go.  But we have been told that we do need this "guidance" That we need someone to "level the playing field" so that we have an easier time of it and don't have to work as hard to be alike. 

Every day I turn on the news to see some new regulation or law that limits our rights.  I read a news story about a farmer being persecuted and prosecuted for feeding families as nature provides.  I hear of a parent turned in to CPS for choosing not to inject their child with something they feel may be harmful.  I see a school system that is more focused on conformity, test scores, and teacher's salaries than on the unique and special gifts our children embody.  And I see people blindly following along and doing what they are told like those on the planet Camazotz.  All bouncing their balls in the same rhythm.  It is as scary to me as it is to children in the novel. 

Embracing our differences is one way we can prevent the loss of our own selves. Standing up for the right of choice and the right to pursue our own chance, our own possibilities, on our own terms is even more important. It is our right not only to try, but to fail, pick ourselves up again, and keep on trying until we succeed.  In fact one could almost say that our  country's success has been build on our country's failure. By giving hand outs, instead of hands up we circumvent that process.  We short circuit the learning process and create a society that expects things to come easy and when they don't society gives up or revolts because their entitlements aren't getting them anywhere.  Easier is not better.  Easy doesn't teach anything. We learn by doing, by trying, and yes by failing. And from that learning comes success and prosperity. IF we keep trying. 

The 2nd step towards restoration of our liberty is embodied by another character in this book. Aunt Beast says, "We look not at the things which are what you would call seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporal. But the things which are not seen are eternal."  She is talking about love, hope, charity, and faith.  Those things that if we work toward giving them to not only others, but to ourselves, we can elevate the condition of our communities without spending a dime. 

It is amazing how a re-read of a simple book can remind me of lessons I learned as a child and how relevant they are for our world today.  Celebrating the differences with love, giving everyone the equal chance to succeed or fail all the while having faith in what hard work and hope for the future can do is how we are going to really cause change.