Daily Beast: Dems Push Biden Administration for New Worker Protections on a Hot Issue
Every worker should have the right to a basic water break
WASHINGTON – One-hundred and twelve members of Congress, led by Representatives Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-07), Greg Casar (TX-35), Judy Chu (CA-28), Sylvia Garcia (TX-29), and Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03), along with Senators Sherrod Brown (OH), Catherine Cortez Masto (NV), Alex Padilla (CA), and Bernie Sanders (VT), are calling on the Biden Administration to implement an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) workplace heat standard as quickly as possible.
The members released a letter today urging the “fastest possible implementation… given the dire threat to the lives of workers exposed to extreme heat.”
“In Arizona and across the country, climate change has made scorching temperatures, incidents of workers collapsing and deaths all too common. Even now, Arizona continues to face life-threatening conditions with one the worst heat waves in centuries. The Biden administration must act,” said Congressman Raúl Grijalva (D-Arizona). “The Asunción Valdivia Heat Illness and Fatality Prevention Act is a model piece of legislation that provides labor protections to safeguard indoor and outdoor workers from heat stress and extreme temperatures. We urge the administration to act as quickly as possible to establish stronger and enforceable federal OSHA standards on heat stress for workers that will keep our communities safe.”
“Bought-and-paid-for politicians like Gov. Abbott are stripping workers of their right to a water break in the middle of a historic heat wave. It’s insane,” said Congressman Greg Casar (D-Texas). “Democrats are going to stand up for common sense and for working people – while Greg Abbott will be on the wrong side of history. President Biden has the opportunity to protect workers and to save lives.”
“The escalating climate crisis has led to sweltering temperatures and to a distressing increase in cases of workers on the job collapsing and even losing their lives,” said Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-California). “Just last week, parts of California experienced temperatures soaring to a scorching 128 degrees Fahrenheit. To value our workforce and protect people’s safety during this worsening crisis, it is absolutely crucial that we promptly establish more comprehensive and enforceable federal OSHA standards addressing heat stress on the job.”
“Every year, Texas seems to reach a new record high of extreme heat. This year, we’ve reached an unprecedented heat index of 125 in some parts of Texas. Yet, for reasons beyond my understanding, Governor Abbott is making working conditions more unsafe by eliminating common-sense water and rest breaks and simultaneously undermining local control,” said Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas). “That is why I urge my colleagues in Congress to support and pass my bill, the Construction Injury Prevention Act, which would provide a paid, 15-minute rest break for every 4 hours of work to construction workers, and other great bills mentioned in our letter to protect workers. We have to act immediately to protect the lives of hard-working Texans, before it’s too late.”
“This summer, Americans across the country are grappling with some of the hottest temperatures on record. Yet workers in this country still have no legal protection against excessive heat—one of the oldest, most serious and most common workplace hazards. Heat illness affects workers in our nation’s fields, warehouses, and factories, and climate change is making the problem more severe every year,” said Congressman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Virginia). “We need OSHA to issue a heat standard on a much faster track than the normal OSHA regulatory process. Workers deserve nothing less, particularly as heat-related illnesses and deaths rise.”
“All workers need a safe work environment. Ohioans shouldn’t have to risk their health in extreme heat to provide for their families,” said Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). “OSHA must create national standards and protections to keep workers safe on the job, as the risks of heat stress increase.”
“As Nevada continues to endure record high temperatures, I’m pushing the Biden Administration to establish federal workplace guidelines to protect Nevada workers from extreme heat and ensure they have adequate hydration, shade, and rest breaks,” said Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nevada). “Nevada workers drive our economy, and I will always stand up for them.”
“As millions of Americans face record-breaking and life-threatening extreme heat conditions, the health and safety of our workers must come first. We urgently need an enforceable federal heat standard that holds employers accountable and protects workers,” said Senator Alex Padilla (D-California). “I urge the Administration to act quickly to protect our workers as temperatures across the country soar.”
“In the richest country in the history of the world, no worker should be forced to choose between losing their job and risking their lives to work in record-breaking heat without basic worker protections,” said Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont). “It is beyond belief that in the middle of what is expected to be the hottest year on record, right-wing politicians are putting workers’ lives at risk by eliminating basic worker rights, such as water breaks for construction workers. These heat waves are dangerous, they are life-threatening, and – with the devastating effects of climate change – they are only getting worse. I urge the Administration to move quickly to create this national heat standard to protect workers on the job.”
The letter urges Acting U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Julie Su and Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Douglas L. Parker to establish an enforceable federal standard to ensure workers and employers can recognize and respond to the signs of heat stress. The standard should require employers to provide the following:
- adequate hydration;
- rest breaks;
- areas for rest breaks that are shaded (in the case of outdoor work) or air-conditioned (in the case of indoor work);
- medical services and training to address signs and symptoms of heat-related illness; and
- a plan for acclimatization to high-heat work conditions.
“This year has already brought record high temperatures that have led to preventable deaths in the workplace,” the members wrote. “In Dallas, Texas, a USPS employee of over 40 years died while on his route in 115-degree heat. In Harrison County, Texas, a 35-year-old lineman working to restore power died, likely from heat exhaustion. We know extreme weather events such as heat waves will are becoming more frequent and more dangerous due to climate change. Urgent action is needed to prevent more deaths.”
The letter comes just a few weeks prior to Texas House Bill 2127 becoming law, which will eliminate local protections against extreme heat, such as the Austin and Dallas ordinances that require water breaks for construction workers. While Texas state legislators are working to dismantle worker protections, some states such as California, Minnesota, Oregon, and Washington have taken a proactive approach to protecting workers from extreme heat by implementing statewide heat rules.
Signatories include: Senators Sherrod Brown (OH), Catherine Cortez Masto (NV), Alex Padilla (CA), Bernard Sanders (VT), Richard Blumenthal (CT), Cory A. Booker (NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), Mazie K. Hirono (HI), Ben Ray Luján (NM), Edward J. Markey (MA), Robert Menendez (NJ), Jeffrey A. Merkley (OR), Jack Reed (RI), Chris Van Hollen (MD), Elizabeth Warren (MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), Ron Wyden (OR), and Representatives Greg Casar (TX-35), Judy Chu (CA-28), Sylvia R. Garcia (TX-29), Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-07), Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03), Chairman of the Committee on Education and Labor, Colin Z. Allred (TX-32), Nanette Diaz Barragán (CA-44), Ami Bera, M.D. (CA-06), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), Jamaal Bowman, Ed.D. (NY-16), Brendan F. Boyle (PA-02), Shontel M. Brown (OH-11), Cori Bush (MO-01), Yadira Caraveo, M.D. (CO-08), Salud Carbajal (CA-24), Troy Carter (LA-02), Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick (FL-20), Yvette D. Clarke (NY-09), Emanuel Cleaver, II (MO-05), Steve Cohen (TN-09), Jasmine Crockett (TX-30), Madeleine Dean (PA-04), Rosa L. DeLauro (CT-03), Chris Deluzio (PA-17), Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), Debbie Dingell (MI-06), Lloyd Doggett (TX-37), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Dwight Evans (PA-03), Valerie P. Foushee (NC-04), Maxwell Frost (FL-10), Ruben Gallego (AZ-03), Jesús G. “Chuy” García (IL-04), Robert Garcia (CA-42), Dan Goldman (NY-10), Jimmy Gomez (CA-34), Josh Gottheimer (NJ-05), Chrissy Houlahan (PA-06), Val Hoyle (OR-04), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson Jr. (GA-04), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Daniel T. Kildee (MI-08), Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL-08), Rick Larsen (WA-02), Barbara Lee (CA-12), Summer Lee (PA-12), Mike Levin (CA-49), Ted W. Lieu (CA-36), Zoe Lofgren (CA-18), Seth Magaziner (RI-02), Doris Matsui (CA-07), Betty McCollum (MN-04), Morgan McGarvey (KY-03), Robert J. Menendez (NJ-08), Grace Meng (NY-06), Joseph D. Morelle (NY-25), Jerry Nadler (NY-12), Donald Norcross (NJ-01), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), Ilhan Omar (MN-05), Dean Phillips (MN-03), Chellie Pingree (ME-01), Mark Pocan (WI-02), Katie Porter (CA-47), Delia C. Ramirez (IL-03), Jamie Raskin (MD-08), Raul Ruiz, M.D. (CA-25), C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (MD-11), Patrick Ryan (NY-18), Linda T. Sánchez (CA-38), Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-05), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Brad Sherman (CA-32), Adam Smith (WA-09), Darren Soto (FL-09), Haley M. Stevens (MI-11), Mark Takano (CA-39), Shri Thanedar (MI-13), Dina Titus (NV-01), Norma J. Torres (CA-35), Ritchie Torres (NY-15), Lori Trahan (MA-03), David J. Trone (MD-06), Juan Vargas (CA-52), Marc A. Veasey (TX-33), Nydia Velásquez (NY-07), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-25), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Nikema Williams (GA-05), and Frederica S. Wilson (FL-24).