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Important step forward on federal heat regulations

We have some breaking news to share with you. After decades of advocacy, our voices have been heard. This morning the Biden Administration proposed the first federal heat safety standard. We are excited by these very important first steps to saving farm workers and other outdoor workers’ lives. 

This common-sense and life-saving rule, proposed by the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), will – once effective – protect the health and lives of farm workers who have no choice but to work during dangerous temperatures. This federal rule has been a long-time priority for the farm worker movement and is the result of decades of advocacy by farm workers, often in the wake of immense tragedies including farm worker deaths. 

The newly proposed federal heat safety rule is modeled on existing heat safety standards in California, Oregon and Washington, all of which were implemented following the deaths of farm workers killed on the job by extreme heat. The proposed federal OSHA rule includes:

  • Requiring worker access to clean drinking water;
  • Requiring worker access to shaded and/or indoor rest areas.
  • Requiring workers to have the right to take regular rest breaks
  • Requiring employers to educate and train workers as to these rights, as well as implement a climate acclimatization plan for workers

UFW President Teresa Romero shares, This is a bittersweet moment for farm workers. Every significant heat safety regulation in America at the state, and now federal, level was written in the blood of farm workers. Every year farm workers are killed by heat – with known deaths likely drastically outnumbered by the unknown, uncounted deaths. This is particularly true in states such as Florida and Texas, where extreme anti-worker and pro-death governors have taken extreme action to dismantle the few local workplace heat protections that existed.

“Today, the federal government put itself on the right side of history by seeking, for the first time, to establish the precedent that every worker in America has the right to shade, water, and rest while working in temperatures that could kill them. As extreme temperatures continue to become the new normal, we also know it will continue to be America’s most marginalized yet essential workers, disproportionately immigrants, who will continue to be used by our society as disposable human shields against climate change. This proposal is a step towards becoming a better nation – one in which our economy is more resilient, our society more just, and every worker able to work with dignity and come home to their family.”

We are deeply encouraged by this important step forward, but the battle is not over. The next step is that the proposed regulations will be opened for public comments. We will again need your support. Look out for an email from us in the near future asking you to submit your comment.

Si Se Puede!

PS: We wanted to share links to: UFW news release, Politico article, the proposed OSHA regulations