You are here

Washington

The Green New Deal: From Below or from Above?

How the Green New Deal from Below Integrates Diverse Constituencies

By Jeremy Brecher - Labor Network for Sustainability, February 2, 2024

Green New Deal initiatives at local, state, regional, and civil society levels around the country have drawn together diverse, sometimes isolated, or even conflicted constituencies around common programs for climate, jobs, and justice. How have they done so?

Transcript Follows:

Extreme Heat Pushes More Farmworkers to Harvest at Night, Creating New Risks

By Kristoffer Tigue - Inside Climate News , October 31, 2023

American farmworkers are increasingly at risk of heat-related illness and death as climate change drives temperatures around the world to record highs. That’s pushing more and more workers to harvest crops at night to avoid extreme heat, according to recent reports, which is creating a host of new risks that experts say need to be more thoroughly studied.

More than 2 million U.S. farmworkers, who typically toil outdoors under a hot summer sun, are exceptionally at risk of succumbing to heat-related illness, the Environmental Defense Fund warned in a July report, with heat-related mortalities 20 times higher for crop workers than in other private industries, as well as employees in local and state government. About three weeks of the summer harvest season are now expected to be too hot to safely work outdoors, the report’s authors added, and that number will only increase as global warming continues.

Government data and other studies have found that an average of 43 farmworkers die every year from heat-related illness. But top officials with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which oversees U.S. working conditions, say that number is significantly undercounted, largely because heat doesn’t get factored into deaths from cardiac arrests and respiratory failures. One advocacy group estimated that heat exposure could be responsible for as many as 2,000 worker fatalities in the U.S. each year.

In fact, this summer was the hottest on record for the entire northern hemisphere, federal scientists announced in September, in large part because of climate change. Parts of the Midwest and large regions of Europe are also experiencing record hot Octobers.

As the daytime heat has gone up, a growing number of agriculture workers—many of whom are Latino and undocumented—now work while it’s still dark out. But that could be trading one risk for a set of others, labor and safety advocates are warning.

Ignoring Climate Scientists and Environmental Justice Advocates, DOE Awards Billions to Fossil Fuel Hydrogen

By Abbe Ramanan - Linked In, October 30, 2023

On October 13th, the U.S. Department of Energy announced the recipients of the Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs (“H2Hubs”) funding. H2Hubs will award up to $7 billion to seven regional hydrogen hubs around the country. Disappointingly, more than half of the money from this massive federal investment will go towards Hubs producing hydrogen from fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage (CCS), also known as blue hydrogen. This massive investment ignores major concerns cited by climate scientists, environmental justice advocates, and clean energy experts.

One major concern identified by climate scientists is especially worrying: hydrogen gas leaked into the atmosphere is an indirect greenhouse gas that extends the lifetime of methane in the atmosphere, which means hydrogen has 35 times the climate warming impacts of CO2. A massive buildout of hydrogen infrastructure at this scale, without further research into how to safely and securely transport and store hydrogen, will almost certainly lead to significant short-term warming.

Although DOE has stated that each Hub’s projected benefits played a large role in determining awards, the H2Hubs process has suffered from a lack of transparency. Prospective awardees were not required to publish their proposals publicly, so while many of the Hubs promise community benefits, how these community benefits will be generated – and how those benefits will outweigh the potential harms of each Hub – remain opaque. DOE is hosting a series of local engagement opportunities for each Hub, which will hopefully provide opportunities to cut through the hype and learn more about what these projects will mean for the communities impacted.

While we don’t know much about these Hubs, what we do know suggests that most of these projects will do more harm than good:

Workers are dying from extreme heat. Why aren’t there laws to protect them?

By Jana Cholakovska and Nate Rosenfield - Grist, October 19, 2023

This story is co-published with The Guardian and produced in partnership with the Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism and the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. It is part of Record High, a Grist series examining extreme heat and its impact on how — and where — we live.

Jasmine Granillo was eager for her older brother, Roendy, to get home. With their dad’s long hours at his construction job, Roendy always tried to make time for his sister. He had promised to take her shopping at a local flea market when he returned from work. 

“I thought my brother was coming home,” Granillo said. 

Roendy Granillo was installing floors in Melissa, Texas, in July 2015. Temperatures had reached 95 degrees Fahrenheit when he began to feel sick. He asked for a break, but his employer told him to keep working. Shortly after, he collapsed. He died on the way to the hospital from heat stroke. He was 25 years old. 

A few months later, the Granillo family joined protesters on the steps of Dallas City Hall for a thirst strike to demand water breaks for construction workers. Jasmine, only 11 years old at the time, spoke to a crowd about her brother’s death. She said that she was scared, but that she “didn’t really think about the fear.” 

“I just knew that it was a lot bigger than me,” she said.

Biden Funding for Hydrogen Hubs Threatens Communities, Exacerbates Climate Crisis

By Patrick Sullivan, Center for Biological Diversity; Karen Feridun, Better Path Coalition; Peter Hart, Food and Water Watch; Maya van Rossum, Delaware Riverkeeper Network - Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) Facts, October 13, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Biden administration announced today that it will fund seven hydrogen hubs with $7 billion in taxpayer dollars to rapidly expand the production, transport, and use of hydrogen across the nation – sacrificing communities, worsening localized pollution and water crises, doubling down on national sacrifice zones, and perpetuating our reliance on fossil fuels. 

“Throwing billions at hydrogen hubs deepens our dependence on fossil fuels and worsens the climate emergency,” said Maggie Coulter, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. “President Biden should be urgently investing in proven and increasingly affordable solar and wind energy. It’s wasteful and misguided to fund false solutions like hydrogen that only further burden frontline communities.”

The Department of Energy’s announcement to fund regional hydrogen hubs in the Mid-Atlantic, Appalachia, the Gulf Coast, California, the Midwest, the Dakotas/Minnesota, and the Pacific Northwest flies in the face of the numerous adverse impacts such hubs will have on communities. Billions of dollars in funding for the planned hydrogen buildout subjects already disproportionately adversely affected communities to more pollution and dangerous infrastructure.

“Today’s announcement is a pledge of allegiance to dirty energy by the Biden administration. It is at once a betrayal of environmental justice communities that have been suffering at the hands of the same polluting industries that will now benefit from this misappropriation of taxpayer dollars and of future generations who will suffer the climate chaos hydrogen hub development guarantees,” said Karen Feridun, Co-founder of the Better Path Coalition in Pennsylvania.

Earlier this year, over 180 regional and national climate, community and environmental groups urged the Department of Energy to reject the “hydrogen hype” and ditch funding to expand hydrogen-based technologies touted as climate solutions by the fossil fuel industry. In fact, the vast majority of hydrogen is generated from fossil fuels, and it itself is an indirect greenhouse gas. 

“The build out of massive hydrogen infrastructure is little more than an industry ploy to rebrand fracked gas. The Biden Administration has clearly fallen for this scam hook, line and sinker. This multi-billion dollar bet on greenwashed dirty energy will undermine efforts to address the climate crisis, while increasing pollution of our air and water, and milk taxpayers for billions in new fossil fuel subsidies,” said Jim Walsh, Policy Director of Food & Water Watch. 

“The avalanche of funding from the Infrastructure Law to create Hydrogen Hubs threatens to doom our national commitment to keep the earth from global climate catastrophe. Efforts to replace greenhouse gas emitting energy sources with renewable and truly clean energy will be undone by these subsidies to support methane and other polluting fuels that will make matters worse. Our government must stop investing in dirty energy and instead launch a full-on campaign for non-polluting renewables,” said Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper, leader of Delaware Riverkeeper Network.

Hydrogen production requires massive amounts of water; takes more energy to produce than it generates; is more likely to explode and burns hotter than conventional fossil fuels; and is more corrosive to pipelines – increasing threats in already overburdened communities, and extending our nation’s reliance on fossil fuels. 

“We need an ambitious transition away from dirty energy, not another taxpayer subsidy that enables Big Oil to repackage fossil fuels as so-called clean energy,” said Sarah Lutz, Climate Campaigner at Friends of the Earth US. “The Biden Administration should not be funding hydrogen infrastructure that will lock in decades more of dirty energy production in frontline communities already overburdened with pollution.”

Nighttime Harvests Protect Farmworkers From Extreme Heat, but Bring Other Risks

By Amy Mayer - Civil Eats,September 27, 2023

In the summer months, Flor Sanchez and the members of her harvest crew rise before dawn and arrive at a cherry orchard in Washington state’s Yakima Valley when there is only the slightest hint of daylight.

“We use headlamps,” she says, to carry ladders to the trees. Climbing up into the branches to harvest the ripe fruit in near-darkness, she says, “seems a little dangerous.” Headlamps cast shadows that can make it difficult to see the fruit. Setting up ladders in the dark also poses a danger.

Elizabeth Strater, director of strategic campaigns with United Farm Workers, says for field crops like onions and garlic, harvesting at night by headlamp or flood lights poses less risk than picking tree fruit because ladders aren’t needed, the short plants don’t create shadows, and workers know exactly what to pick even if they can’t completely see what they’re doing. The produce itself is also more durable. Winegrape harvest also often takes place at night.

Across super-hot regions, nocturnal harvest, as Strater calls the practice, has become increasingly common. As climate change pushes summer temperatures higher on more consecutive days, and scientists are forecasting even warmer years ahead, more workers may find themselves in the field at night and in the early morning hours. And while some safety measures have been put in place, more data is needed to assess the challenges workers face.

Amid a record heat wave, Texas construction workers lose their right to rest breaks

By Hannah Levitan - NPR, July 21, 2023

A week after construction workers in Austin, Texas, learned they were about to lose their right to rest breaks, the city reached a record-high heat index of 118 degrees. From July 9 to 19, the state capital saw an unprecedented, 11-day streak of temperatures reaching 105 degrees or more.

The Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Service has responded to 410 heat-related incidents just since June 1, according to a spokesperson, Capt. Christa Stedman. Among them: A middle-aged man, working outdoors, who called for help after experiencing signs of heat exhaustion.

"It progressed so quickly into heat stroke that, between the time he called 911 and the time that the paramedics arrived on scene, he was fully unconscious and his core temperature was over 106," Stedman said.

Construction worker Mario Ontiveros risks the same outcome. Because he works in Dallas, a local ordinance gives him the right to at least a 10-minute rest break every four hours. But this is the last summer he'll get to claim it.

On June 13, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed HB 2127 — the Texas Regulatory Consistency Act — which bars cities and counties from passing regulations that are stricter than state ones. It also overturns local rules such as ordinances in Austin and Dallas that mandate rest breaks for construction workers. The law takes effect Sept. 1.

Many states decline to require water breaks for outdoor workers in extreme heat

By Barbara Barrett - Stateline, June 30, 2023

Nearly 400 U.S. workers died of heat exposure over a decade.

Even as summer temperatures soar and states wrangle with protecting outdoor workers from extreme heat, Texas last week enacted a law that axes city rules mandating water and shade breaks for construction workers.

In state after state, lawmakers and regulators have in recent years declined to require companies to offer their outdoor laborers rest breaks with shade and water. In some cases, legislation failed to gain traction. In others, state regulators decided against action or have taken years to write and release rules.

Heat causes more deaths in the United States each year than any other extreme weather. And in Texas, at least 42 workers died of heat exposure between 2011 and 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, though labor advocates say the number is much higher because other causes are cited in many deaths.

A 2021 investigation by NPR and Columbia Journalism Investigations found nearly 400 workers had died of environmental heat exposure in the previous decade, with Hispanic workers — who make up much of the nation’s farm and construction workforce — disproportionately affected.

Climate change has brought more days of extreme heat each year on average, and scientists say that number will grow. Yet only three states — California, Oregon and Washington — require heat breaks for outdoor workers. Minnesota has a rule that sets standards for indoor workers, and Colorado’s heat regulations cover only farmworkers.

Washington employers push back on new worker heat-protection rules

By Farah Eltohamy - Crosscut, June 15, 2023

Lorena, a former farmworker from Sunnyside, toiled day and night tending to blueberries in Washington’s Yakima Valley for close to a decade.

By year six, Lorena’s employer had elevated her to a supervisory role – which she said she personally took as an opportunity to better advocate for her fellow farmworkers out in the sweltering summer conditions.

Lorena, who asked to be identified by her first name only to avoid any potential reprisal from her former employer, regularly reported any problems she saw with lack of access to adequate water and shade – and over the years was met with repeated retaliation that she said ultimately drove her out of the career in 2021.

The heat is becoming more extreme each passing year, Lorena told Crosscut, but most changes to working conditions seem for “the benefit of the fruit, not for the benefit of farmworkers.” 

Agricultural workers are among those most vulnerable to heat-related illnesses, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention they’re dying of heatstroke at a rate nearly 20 times greater than all U.S. civilian workers. 

Pages

The Fine Print I:

Disclaimer: The views expressed on this site are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) unless otherwise indicated and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s, nor should it be assumed that any of these authors automatically support the IWW or endorse any of its positions.

Further: the inclusion of a link on our site (other than the link to the main IWW site) does not imply endorsement by or an alliance with the IWW. These sites have been chosen by our members due to their perceived relevance to the IWW EUC and are included here for informational purposes only. If you have any suggestions or comments on any of the links included (or not included) above, please contact us.

The Fine Print II:

Fair Use Notice: The material on this site is provided for educational and informational purposes. It may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. It is being made available in an effort to advance the understanding of scientific, environmental, economic, social justice and human rights issues etc.

It is believed that this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have an interest in using the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. The information on this site does not constitute legal or technical advice.