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Not My Boss's Business Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. BOOKER. Madam President, I rise to support the ``Not My Boss's Business Act,'' which will help to fix the recent Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision by making it illegal for a company to deny their workers specific health care benefits, including birth control, as is required to be covered by Federal law.

I am proud to be an original cosponsor of this bill which is necessary to ensure that all women have access to preventive care.

I wish to say, on a personal note, I was a young child growing up in a household with a working mother. Mom worked for a big corporation and worked in human resources. My table would often be one where it was discussed that my mother was dealing with challenges of racial discrimination, challenges of sexism in the workplace. I watched how my mother, in human resources, would fight to make sure that we as a nation, as well as this particular corporation, continued to advance in fairly treating all of its employees. I was proud to watch my mother assert her independence, her freedoms, and her basic sense of equity, which resonates with the highest values of this Nation.

What is frustrating to me now is here we stand in 2014, and we seem to be fighting so many battles and advancements we won before that are still needing to be fought.

It is unthinkable to me that as we should be turning our focus toward other things such as paid family leave or raising the minimum wage, here we are again fighting about whether women should have the right to have access to birth control. This is unfortunate because contraception is essential to a woman's right to make her own personal health care decisions. Birth control is not only basic to making health care decisions, but it is one in which 99 percent of women avail themselves. Throughout their lifetime we will see 99 percent of American women avail themselves of birth control.

These women should not be forced to decide between contraception and a tank of gas or between contraception and meals for their family, contraception and paying rent.

The Hobby Lobby decision, if you think about it, is imposing the will of a corporation--one corporation's board member's religious beliefs or what-have-you can be imposed such that it would cost women who now want to exercise their freedom up to $1,000 a year. For minimum-wage or low-wage workers, the out-of-pocket cost for birth control each month is a real and substantive financial burden.

Let's be clear. Workers have insurance coverage through their labor. It is part of their earned pay. This is not a free giveaway. They earned this coverage. What they spend their health care coverage on is their business, not their boss's business.

I deeply value ideals of religious liberty. This is what this country was founded on. But religious liberty belongs to all of us; it does not belong to a corporation. Religious liberty means being free from having other people's religions foisted upon you, imposed upon you, or forced upon you.

Most employees would never dream of telling their bosses what they must decide and abide by in terms of religious freedom. And by that same principle, no boss should have the right to impose his religion on the people who work for him.

That is one of the reasons why so many faith leaders have spoken against the Hobby Lobby decision. It is now making it acceptable for a corporation to impose on the individual liberty of others their religious beliefs, also the financial freedom that goes along with that, and also the ability for a woman to make critical health care decisions. They might even be interfering with a doctor telling a patient what is best for them and their health.

The views held by companies' owners should not be able to interfere with this basic understanding of fundamental rights. The Not My Boss's Business Act protects workers' religious liberty by not allowing their bosses to impose this hardship, to impose their religion, and to impose what I believe ultimately comes down to discrimination.

Finally, the precedent set by this decision could open the door wider and wider for more court cases and more employers who want to deny more aspects of basic health coverage and services because they claim it conflicts with the boss's religious beliefs. From blood transfusions to vaccinations, we are now in a minefield in which we can have the destruction of religious freedom of employees and the health care freedom we have fought so hard to manifest.

The Hobby Lobby decision is a step backward that we must correct. It is a step against women's rights. It is a step against religious freedom. It is a step against workers who earn basic benefits to have the ability to make those benefits real in their lives.

The Not My Boss's Business Act will make it clear that bosses cannot discriminate. The Not My Boss's Business Act will make it clear that there should be equal treatment under the law for the tens of thousands of workers whose coverage now hangs in the balance.

A woman's health care decisions should be between that woman and her doctor. There is no room for a boss's religious beliefs in that equation, period.

I watched for decades, growing up, not only my mother but countless people fight to establish basic principles in the workplace. We cannot go back now. This is such a critical piece of legislation, to correct for the mistakes in this Supreme Court decision and assert those fundamental American ideals, that individuals should be able to make their own health care decisions, that bosses and corporations should not impose religious beliefs on others, and that we are a nation where every woman can create a sacrosanct and private relationship with her doctor and make ultimately the health care decisions that are best for her, not ones in any way influenced or affected by a corporation.

I thank again the Senate and the Presiding Officer for this time but, most importantly, I thank Senator Murray and other Senators who have led on this issue.

I yield the floor.

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