The ASUC is holding a “Time of the Month Drive” to collect pads, tampons and diapers to distribute to those in need in the Berkeley community.
Suitcase Clinic, a humanitarian student organization, asked ASUC Senator Miranda Hernandez for the ASUC’s assistance in coordinating the drive. Hernandez organized a 5-day drive, lasting from Monday to Friday. ASUC senators set up a drop-off table on Sproul Plaza and stationed collection bins near sororities.
Hernandez said that she, along with other women in the ASUC, felt the drive would be a prime opportunity to commemorate Women’s History Month. She added that she was inspired to conduct the event after viewing a Facebook video of a homeless woman in New York who had to create makeshift menstrual products.
ASUC Senator Rosa Kwak emphasized that menstrual products should not be taxed or even purchased. She said that such items are not affordable for everyone and that seeing people donating products has been promising.
“There is a real problem with lack of accessibility and we hope this drive destigmatizes that,” Kwak said. “It’s a good cause and riles up the campus community to start a conversation.”
In related news, Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed AB 1561 in September 2016. The bill would have exempted taxes on sanitary napkins, tampons, menstrual sponges and menstrual cups.
Kwak and Hernandez expressed their disappointment with the bill’s failure to pass.
“I find it ridiculous that we are being taxed for essentially just basic hygienic necessities. I don’t expect (Brown) to understand because he doesn’t have a menstrual cycle,” Hernandez said. “(The tax) is inconsiderate because he is supposed to represent both men and women.”
Kwak said the ASUC denounces the tax on menstrual products. She added that the ASUC urged the state assembly to take action in support of AB 1561.
Erinn Ryberg is the legislative director for California Assemblymember Cristina Garcia, who introduced the bill. Ryberg said tampons should be considered medical in nature, because these items are not taxable under California tax code.
According to Ryberg, the legislature is currently working on a companion bill to AB 1561, which is now named AB 9, that would supply free menstrual products to schools and homeless shelters to alleviate financial burdens.
Kwak said she is working to start change within UC Berkeley, hoping to institutionalize free pads and tampons on campus. She said that such efforts have already been instituted at UCLA and that, through use of grants and referendums, she would like to see something similar on the UC Berkeley campus by next year.
“The fact that we pay taxes on tampons shows that the state of California thinks these (products) are considered luxuries. We are female and we all understand these products are not a luxury,” Ryberg said. “It just shows who makes the laws in California and that is men. They don’t think this is a big deal, but it’s a big deal for us.”