People are suffering from heat waves around the U.S., but many can find relief indoors with air conditioning. Not so for farmworkers who, according to CDC data, are 20 times more likely than other workers to die from heat-related causes. Now, some advocacy groups are trying to get federal protection from workplace heat exposure.
“It would be really good to have a broad rule so when farm owners see that temperatures are way too high they need to stop and allow people to rest,” said farmworker Tere Cruz, as reported by The Guardian. “Things as they are right now, you can see when it’s really hot that by 1 or 2 in the afternoon, people just can’t work any more. But there’s this real pressure to keep working and keep working.” Too often, bosses don’t take no for an answer and continue to push workers.
Last month, 38-year-old Sebastián Francisco Pérez collapsed and died at an Oregon tree farm during a heatwave. The Guatemalan man’s heat exposure death spurred the state of Washington to announce new emergency rules protecting farm and other outdoor workers with some heat protection. The only other two U.S. states with heat-related worker protections are California and Minnesota. Colorado has made some limited moves in this direction.
“It’s extremely hot out there and it’s getting worse every year,” said Nezahualcoyotl Xiuhtecutli, general coordinator of the Farmworker Association of Florida, as reported by The Guardian. “One of the biggest problems is the way that farm workers are paid. When they’re paid by the piece rate, that encourages workers to exert themselves even more. When they’re part of a crew, the person who slows down because he has to take a water break or use the restroom, then they become the guy who slows down the crew.”
And it’s only getting worse. June 2021 was the U.S.’s hottest June on record. Last year, University of Washington researchers predicted that the number of days U.S. farmworkers will labor in unsafe temperatures will nearly triple by 2100, from an average of 21 days per harvest season to 62 days.
Via The Guardian
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