During their Oct. 24 meeting the Eau Claire City Council voted 7-1 to enact a rule barring children of council members from the dais. This issue came up because council member Catherine Emmanuelle has wanted to be able to breastfeed her new child while sitting normally on the dais at council meetings. This has been brewing as an issue in the council for some time now, and finally came to a vote. Emmanuelle, Kate Beaton, and Andrew Werthmann all abstained from voting, apparently because they believed the issue should not be voted on as it would raise unwanted precedents.

Many council members argued that this is a matter of decorum and giving undivided attention to the workings of the council and to constituents speaking before the group.

The vote has attracted national attention. An AP story on the vote was picked up by major newspapers around the country, and the story has been featured in Huffington Post.

In particular, however, the story has had incredible traction in social media. Reactions have been overwhelmingly in favor of Emmanuelle and the right of mothers to breastfeed in the workplace. Much of this is disappointment that the city council could not find some informal way to deal with this issue rather than bringing it to a vote and exacerbating the division within the council on the issue. Many social media posts have carried the #standwithcatherine hashtag promoted by the VoteRunLead leadership program.

Twelve female members of the Wisconsin State Legislature have sent a letter to the city council, led largely by State Representative Melissa Sargent protesting the decision by the council. Emmanuelle is at the moment considering further legal measures on this isssue, and the news on this decision will certainly continue.

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Steve Hanson

Steve is a web designer and recently retired from running the hosting and development company Cruiskeen Consulting LLC. Cruiskeen Consulting LLC is the parent company of Wis.Community, and publication of this site continues after his retirement.

Steve is a member of LION Publishers and the Local Media Consortium, is active in Health Dunn Right, and is vice-president of the League of Women Voters of the greater Chippewa Valley


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