Boycott Totes/Isotoner

I’m throwing my hat in the ring on this one. In case you haven’t seen the million angry articles and blog posts about the recent Ohio Supreme Court finding, you can read about it officially here or unofficially here and here.

Here is the letter I sent to Totes/Isotoner – feel free to take part or all for your own letter:

To: vickie.fightmaster@totes.com, customerservice@totes.com; chuck.aardema@totes.com; lauren.rosewski@totes.com

Subject: Alienating your consumer base

Ms. Fightmaster and assorted Totes executives,

This is some shameful legal tap-dancing on your part, Totes/Isotoner. You may have won the battle, but your consumers are surely watching you closely and I pray you won’t win this war.

The following quote was taken from http://www.supremecourt.ohio.gov/PIO/oralArguments/09/0311/0311.asp:

“Attorneys for Totes/Isotoner cite multiple court decisions that they say have held that an employer’s failure to extend additional leave or otherwise change workplace policies to accommodate women to facilitate the  breastfeeding of infants was not discriminatory because breastfeeding does not fall within the definitions of an “illness” or  “medical condition” arising from pregnancy or childbirth. “

You’re missing the most important point here – breastfeeding is what’s best for the baby. I guess that’s no concern of yours. The US is way behind in accommodating nursing mothers. And your little legal victory is a huge step backwards.

Your press release states:
“totes»ISOTONER has, does and will continue to provide work-place lactation support for all nursing mothers, including considerations for time, place and opportunity. Many nursing mothers have and continue to take advantage of these accommodations. In this particular case accommodations were in place and provided.”

First of all, womens restrooms are dirty, germ-ridden places. I do NOT consider the restroom suitable “accommodations”. By forcing lactating employees to wait to pump, or to only pump a little to fit into a 10-minute break period, you end up decreasing their milk supply. You are literally taking food out of the baby’s mouth.

I find it hard to believe that there is no way to accommodate a more lenient schedule for nursing mothers for nine to 12 months after giving birth. Can’t you keep track of the time and subtract sick leave or something? There must be some way to make it a fair but available option.

Essentially, instead of being a leader here – helping women do their job and take care of their families in the best possible way – you are part of the problem. You are forcing women to choose between a job they probably need to survive and providing their children with the best possible nutrition. This shouldn’t be an either/or situation.

According to the press release from Oregon Democrat Jeff Merkley’s office, “A recent study by the United Breastfeeding Committee found that if half of the babies in the U.S. were exclusively breastfed for six months, we would realize potential savings of up to $14 billion a year in health care costs for childhood illnesses.” With the inclusion of Sen. Merkley’s Breastfeeding Amendment in the ever-changing health care reform legislation, I have a small hope that accommodating nursing mothers will become a nationwide effort. It’s depressing that at the same time one side is fighting for the health of babies, someone else is litigating their way around it.

The following findings are taken from the proposed amendments, S.1244 and H. R. 2819, which can be found at http://www.thomas.gov/home/bills_res.html:

    • (1) Women with infants and toddlers are a rapidly growing segment of the labor force today.
    • (2) Statistical surveys of families show that over 50 percent of mothers with children less than 1 year of age are in the labor force.
    • (3) The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that mothers breastfeed exclusively for 6 months and continue breastfeeding for at least the first year of a child’s life, and that arrangements be made to allow a mother’s expressing of milk if mother and child must separate.
    • (4) Research studies show that children who are not breastfeed have higher rates of mortality, meningitis, some types of cancers, asthma and other respiratory illnesses, bacterial and viral infections, diarrhoeal diseases, ear infections, allergies, and obesity.
    • (5) Research studies have also shown that breastmilk and breastfeeding have protective effects against the development of a number of chronic diseases, including juvenile diabetes, lymphomas, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, some chronic liver diseases, and ulcerative colitis.
    • (6) Maternal benefits of breastfeeding include a reduced risk for postpartum hemorrhage and decreased risk for developing osteoporosis, ovarian cancer, and premenopausal breast cancer.
    • (7) The health benefits to children from breastfeeding translate into a threefold decrease in parental absenteeism due to infant illness.

In an article in Industry Week, dated Sept. 18, 2008, I found this quote:

“Choosing to steer our resources toward preventative care and providing opportunities for health care screening was a shift in philosophy for us. We had been focusing on providing care when people became sick. As result of our screening we were able to help employees avoid some major illnesses and when it comes down to it that’s the core of what we want to do for our employees,” explains Chuck Aardema, Vice President, Human Resources of totes-Isotoner Corp.

Science has clearly proven that breastfeeding is an effective way to stave off infection and disease. Breastfeeding IS preventative care. Support it!

You can be sure that my friends, my family and I will no longer be consumers of Totes/Isotoner products. You are either part of the problem or you are part of the solution – and since you don’t even recognize the problem, you are clearly part of it.

Sincerely,

Abi Beaty

7 thoughts on “Boycott Totes/Isotoner

  1. I agree with you 100% that the action is shameful. Maybe we need to elect some mothers that have actually had to breastfeed to wake up the lawmakers.

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