On January 14, the WNBA and the players union announced that they reached an agreement on a new eight-year collective bargaining agreement. A key component: it boasted both maternity and progressive family planning benefits.
Most notably, players are now guaranteed 100% of their salary for maternity leave, reimbursement for childcare up to $750 per month, costs of up to $20,000 directly related to adoption, surrogacy, and more, and accommodations for nursing mothers.
One cannot talk about pregnancy and the WNBA without thinking of last year’s major story out of Dallas, where all-star point guard Skylar Diggins-Smith announced via Twitter that she played the entire 2018 WNBA season pregnant.
Under the old CBA, players were only entitled to 50% of their salary if they could not play due to pregnancy. Talking to reporters after USA basketball practice last week in Hartford, Diggins-Smith addressed that issue, adding “[A]nd people wonder why I didn’t come out and say I was pregnant.”
When it came time to come to the table to negotiate the current CBA, Diggins-Smith went straight to WNBPA president Nneka Ogwumike, often talking to her face to face about concerns for mothers in the league.
Diggins-Smith stated, “All 144 of us had a seat at the table, but for me, obviously the taste that was in my mouth last year was wanting to improve the conditions as a mother, and not being a mom, you don’t understand what moms need.” She further added, “Closed mouths don’t get fed so I know I had to come out and speak on things that I needed.”
The response? Leadership that listens, according to Diggins-Smith. And one of the first major sports contracts for modern women. The “Benefits” section under the old CBA stopped at Section 6 – the Administration of Plans. The “Benefits” section under the new CBA adds Sections 7 through 9, focused on childcare assistance, family planning, and accommodating nursing mothers. Diggins-Smith hit the message home, saying “In an all women’s league, it’s a long time coming.”
Diggins-Smith doesn’t take credit for all the family planning changes in new CBA. In fact, she noted how involved all the players were, especially Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird. Regarding Bird, Diggins-Smith noted, “[W]ho knows if she’s gonna keep playing or not, she wants to be involved to make this league better. So I think it’s great just having, from young to old, everybody wanting to be involved and trying to figure out what’s the collective best for everybody and prioritize it.”
Bird, also speaking to reporters after USA basketball practice in Hartford, joked, “I’m trying to put like 8 Bird Rules in,” in terms of her work on the new CBA. Bird cited the ability of the players and the league working together as a reason for the progressive family planning, stating “[W]ho better than a league of women to be the ones pioneering all these different types of things, cause you don’t really see them in a lot of jobs. Who better to be on the front lines of this than a league full of women.”
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