'Dangerous and life-threatening': Democrats demand heat-related protections for outdoor workers

'Dangerous and life-threatening': Democrats demand heat-related protections for outdoor workers
Image from Creative Commons.

Scientists and environmentalists have been warning that as climate change continues to escalate, it will inflict damage in a variety of ways. The 2023 summer has brought everything from major flooding in Vermont and Philadelphia's Bucks County suburbs (where five people were killed) to severe heat in the United States and Southern Europe (including a record-breaking 108F temperature in Rome).

On top of that, wildfires in Quebec, Canada have been bad enough to cause unhealthy air quality to the south in New York, Philly, Boston, Washington, D.C. and other U.S. cities.

During intense heatwaves, not everyone has the privilege of working in an air-conditioned office. Construction, pavement and concrete workers, for example, have no choice but to work outside in the heat — a fact that, according to the Daily Beast's Ursula Perano, a group of Democrats in both branches of Congress are being very vocal about.

READ MORE: Climate change makes it 'wildly' misleading to call 'intense' Vermont disaster a '100-year flood'

The Democratic lawmakers, Perano reports, are "banding together to push the Biden Administration to create new federal rules to protect workers from heat-related injuries on the job."

The Congress members range from Rep. Greg Casar (D-Texas), Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Arizona) and Rep. Judy Chu (D-California) to Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Sen. Catherine Cortez Mastro (D-Nevada) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (a Vermont independent who caucuses with Democrats). The group wrote a letter to Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su and OSHA Assistant Secretary Douglas Parker that, according to Perano, had 112 signatures as of Sunday night, July 23.

In an official statement, Sanders said, "These heatwaves 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."

Texas is one of the states that has been hit especially hard by the heat. In San Antonio, the mother of worker Gabriel Infante — who suffered a heatstroke on the job and later died in the hospital — is suing the company he worked for, B Comm Constructors. Infante was helping move a fiber optic cable.

READ MORE: Scientist details reasons why climate change is a recipe for 'political violence and cruelty'

The Guardian's Michael Sainato reports that according to the lawsuit, temperatures in San Antonio passed 100F, with high humidity, the day Infante suffered a heatstroke. A foreman on the job, according to Sainato, claimed that Infante was showing signs of drug use, but the hospital where he died confirmed that his symptoms were due to a heatstroke — not drug use.

Velma Infante, Gabriel Infante's mother, told The Guardian, "To this day, I have never, ever gotten a phone call from the owner of the company to offer his condolences for my son's death. Or, an 'I'm sorry,' or nothing like that. I mean, of course, it doesn't make a difference. But I mean, it's the gesture. To this day, no 'I'm sorry, Mrs. Infante, for your loss.' Nothing.'"

Texas Democrats have been vehemently critical of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott for, on June 14, signing into law a bill that forbids local governments to mandate heat-related breaks for outdoor workers. Dallas and Austin both had local laws mandating 10-minute breaks for outdoor workers every four hours, but the statewide law that Abbott approved overrides them. Democrats, however, are hoping the Texas law will be invalidated at the federal level.

READ MORE: Why 'pretty helpless' Americans are not panicking about climate change

The Daily Beast's report continues at this link (subscription required). The Guardian's article is here.

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