You are here

construction workers

Brother of State Worker Killed on the Job Wants State Level OSHA

During Some of the Hottest Months in History, Millions of App Delivery Drivers Are Feeling the Strain

By Gina Jiménez - Inside Climate News, August 15, 2023

Around 4 million people in the U.S. work as contractors for app services like DoorDash delivering pizzas, salads and pad thai. Those in areas with extreme heat are taking new measures to keep working through it.

Jessica Fawcett wakes up at 5:30 a.m. so she can deliver groceries and take-out orders throughout Tempe, Arizona by 6:30 a.m. She has been working 12- to 14-hour shifts for Instacart and DoorDash since December, but lately, the heat in Tempe has been making them harder. 

Some days, Fawcett must walk 20 minutes or climb four floors of stairs in a 116-heat index just to deliver one order. “I joke and say I don’t need to go to the gym because I already walk a lot with this heat,” she says, “I have lost so much weight.” 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported this year’s June was the hottest the Earth has ever registered, and last week the Copernicus Climate Change Service said July was the hottest month ever recorded. High temperatures have continued this month, and over 100 million Americans were under an extreme heat alert at some point during July.

Nevertheless, app delivery workers in states with extreme weather, like Arizona and Texas, have kept working. Some feel the consequences on their health, and others are changing their working hours and carrying around cold water to survive long shifts in the blistering heat. 

“It feels like you are standing in an air fryer or a microwave,” says Hector Mejía, a 30-year-old who has been working doing DoorDash deliveries in Phoenix for around a year. He compares heat these days in Arizona with standing next to a campfire. “It’s almost hard to breathe.” 

The number of people working for app delivery platforms in the U.S. has exponentially increased in the last few years, from just over one million in 2018 to over four million in 2021, a recently published study found. That represents almost three times Amazon’s global workforce. 

While some platform workers like the flexibility of the job, they are especially vulnerable to inclement weather, sickness or any situation that keeps them from working since as independent contractors, their livelihood depends on them being on the streets.

In New York City, app delivery workers have been fighting to get an hourly minimum wage, but in the rest of the country, organization efforts are scarce, said Ligia Guallpa, the executive director of the Workers Justice Project, an organization that has supported app delivery workers in New York. 

Miami workers fight for better labor conditions in the heat

By Kat Grimmett - Prism, August 1, 2023


Dozens of workers from the ¡Que Calor! campaign gather after the commissioners meeting to rally behind the proposed heat standard.(Photo by Kat Grimmett)

A sea of royal blue shirts filled the floor before the Miami-Dade County Commission on July 18. They belonged to dozens of outdoor workers with WeCount!’s ¡Que Calor! campaign demanding “agua, sombra, y descanso”—water, shade, and rest. 

Miami commissioners held in their agenda legislation proposing what would be the nation’s first county-wide heat standard for outdoor workers. 

“The demand of ¡Que Calor! is a step in the right direction for bringing dignity and respect for outdoor workers,” said Pedro Marcos Raymundo, one of the leaders of ¡Que Calor!. “But it’s not only about outdoor workers; it’s a step in the right direction for any and all workers.”

Raymundo is one of more than 200 workers organizing with WeCount!, a coalition of immigrant workers and families advocating for better labor conditions in South Florida. ¡Que Calor! unites workers across the outdoor industries to create solutions to the problems they are facing in the workplace. The heat standard laid out in 14A1 is one such solution. 

The board voted unanimously to pass the first reading of 14A1, which would set a historic precedent for workers nationwide if implemented. The decision would provide much relief to a community of more than 100,000 outdoor workers laboring in industries like landscaping and roofing in Miami’s record-breaking heat. 

A week later, President Joe Biden announced new measures to address extreme temperatures as record-breaking and deadly heat waves sweep the country. A hazard alert was issued for the very industries represented by ¡Que Calor!. 

But the fight is not over. The Miami legislation will now go to the Community Health Committee for a public hearing review on Sept. 11. Meanwhile, ¡Que Calor! workers and sponsors urge the Miami community to show up in support. 

The heat standard contains life-saving measures for outdoor workers. The urgency cannot be matched by bureaucracy, and sadly, two workers in Miami died of heat-related illness earlier this year. 

Texan Activists Thirst for a National Heat Standard to Protect Outdoor Workers

By Colleen DeGuzman - KFF Health News, July 28, 2023

WASHINGTON — Construction workers, airport baggage handlers, letter carriers, and other outdoor workers — many of whom traveled to Washington, D.C., from Texas — gathered at the steps of the Capitol on Tuesday. They were joined by labor organizers and lawmakers for what was billed as “a vigil and thirst strike” to protest a law Texas Gov. Greg Abbott recently signed, which, as a downstream consequence, eliminates mandated water breaks for construction workers.

The Republican governor signed House Bill 2127 — known as the Texas Regulatory Consistency Act but dubbed the “Death Star” by critics — the same month the state saw at least 13 heat-related deaths amid a scorching heat wave that’s on track to break records.

The measure, heavily backed by business and building sectors, was designed to replace “the regulatory patchwork” of county and municipal rules across the state “with a single set of predictable, consistent regulations,” according to a fact sheet circulated by its supporters. That means cities would no longer have the authority to enforce local ordinances related to agriculture, natural resources, finance, and labor; and local protections against extreme heat, such as water break requirements, would be rolled back.

The group of about three dozen people stood in the early-afternoon sun and held signs that read “Working Shouldn’t Be a Death Sentence,” “Water Breaks = Basic Right,” and “People Over Profits,” sweating and squinting. In the nation’s capital, the heat index had already reached 91 degrees. But protesters were focused on the plight of employees working in their even-hotter home state, where the thermostat had been reaching triple digits.

Why extreme heat is so deadly for workers

By Siri Chilukuri - Grist, July 25, 2023

Climate change is creating dangerously hot conditions for construction workers, mail carriers, delivery drivers, airline workers, farmworkers, and more. Conditions that were previously uncomfortable are now unbearable, and the failure of companies — along with some state governments — to catch up to the new normal of heat has had deadly consequences

U.S. heat-related fatalities have increased in recent years, according to an NPR analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data that found the three-year average of worker heat deaths has doubled since the early 1990s. In the decade spanning 2011 to 2021, heat killed more than 436 people on the job. 

The myriad of factors that influence how heat is actually felt can be difficult to pin down, but a metric known as the heat index — which combines temperature and humidity — can get close. Last week’s heat index figures were eye-popping, reaching 119 degrees Fahrenheit in Corpus Christi, Texas, and 113 F in both Phoenix and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. 

“The heat index is what really worries me,” said Tevita ’Uhatafe, a former airlines-operation worker who’s now the vice president of the Texas chapter of the AFL-CIO union. “Because that’s what we’re actually dealing with when we’re working outside.” 

Airline-operations positions often mean working outdoors with limited shade. Plus, being surrounded by the sheet metal of airplanes and the concrete of the tarmac can make it even hotter during periods of extreme heat. Concrete, for example, can actually contribute to rising temperatures

By mid-century, a quarter of Americans will experience heat index temperatures above 125 F for at least one day a year, according to a statistical model by the nonprofit First Street Foundation. Areas surrounding the Texas-Mexico border will experience temperatures above 100 F for more than a third of the year. In addition, researchers from the Union of Concerned Scientists and the University of California Merced found that outdoor workers stand to lose more than $39.3 billion in income annually by the middle of the century from reduced hours due to heat risk. 

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.

White Energy Workers of the North, Unite? A Review of Huber's Climate Change as Class War

By Michael Levien - Historical Materialism, March 2023

Review of Matthew Huber, (2022) Climate Change as Class War: Building Socialism on a Warming Planet, London: Verso.

The year-long American saga that culminated in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) underscored the difference between two ways of mitigating climate change at the national level. The first is elite climate policy in which wonks and technocrats come up with the smartest policies to incentivise private capital to invest in the right technologies. This is, ultimately, what we got with the IRA, which has been accurately characterised as the triumph of ‘green industrial policy’.1 The second is popular climate politics which seeks to build a broad political coalition for decarbonisation by tying it to social programmes that directly improve people’s lives. This is the idea behind the Green New Deal, which to a surprising extent made its way into the initial Build Back Better bill before Joe Manchin got his hands on it. Matthew Huber’s book Climate Change as Class War provides a powerful critique of the first while advancing a labour-centred version of the second.

Huber lands many good punches against what he calls professional-class climate politics. Building on the Ehrenreichs’ concept of the professional managerial class (PMC),2 Huber argues that PMC climate politics characteristically over-emphasises that class’ stock-in-trade: education and credentials. In their hands, climate politics thus becomes a matter of knowledge (communicating the science) more than one of power (tackling the class power of the fossil-fuel industry). PMC policy technocrats further internalise neoliberal logic with their obsession with pricing carbon – a policy that ultimately balances the carbon budget on the backs of working-class consumers. In its more radical manifestations, PMC environmentalism – degrowth being the main target here – espouses an ascetic ‘politics of less’ that has no resonance with working-class people who already do not have enough. This type of environmental politics, Huber argues, explains why the right has been able to mobilise the working class against the environment.

By way of alternative, Huber advances a theory of working-class climate politics which he dubs ‘proletarian ecology’. The starting point, developed over Chapters 1 and 2, is to recognise that industrial fossil capital is responsible for the vast majority of emissions. As Huber sketches with discussions of the cement and fertiliser industries – for the latter, Huber draws on some interviews with managers of a fertiliser plant in Louisiana – their carbon intensity is not a matter of greed but of the structural imperative to produce surplus value, and therefore will not be halted (as opposed to greenwashed) by any amount of shaming. Thus, ‘Climate change requires an antagonistic approach towards owners of capital in the “hidden abode” of production’ (p. 106). The problem is that ‘the climate movement today – made up of professional class activists and the most marginalized victims of climate change – is too narrowly constructed to constitute a real threat to the power of industrial capital’ (p. 69).

This brings us to the bold and controversial claim of Climate Change as Class War: it is the working class (and organised labour in particular) that must be the main agent of radical climate politics, not the diverse coalitions of ‘marginalised groups’ – which includes Indigenous movements against pipelines and Black-led environmental justice organisations – who are currently the vanguard of the climate justice movement. What Huber calls ‘livelihood environmentalism’ only sees the working class as having environmental interests when their communities’ land, water or health are directly threatened (p. 195). Huber’s theory of proletarian ecology, by contrast, proceeds from the broader recognition that ‘a defining feature of working-class life under capitalism is profound alienation from the ecological conditions of life itself’ (p. 188). Thus ‘a working-class interest in ecology will emerge not from the experience of environmental threats, but from a profound separation from nature and the means of subsistence’ (pp. 181–2). Rather than defending bodies or landscapes, it will focus on the working class’s material interest in decommodifying the means of subsistence (p. 196).

Comments of Construction Trades Workforce Initiative on the California Energy Commission Equitable Building Decarbonization Program

By Beli Acharya, Andreas Cluver, Bill Whitney, and Danny Bernardini - Construction Trades Workforce Initiative (CTWI), January 12, 2023

Alameda, Contra Costa and Napa-Solano Building & Construction Trades Councils (BTC) and Construction Trades Workforce Initiative (CTWI) respectfully submits our comments in response to the California Energy Commission (CEC) Equitable Building Decarbonization Program Request for Information (RFI).

CTWI is the nonprofit partner of the East Bay Building Trades, working to ensure the long term sustainability of the construction industry by bridging the gap between union construction labor and key stakeholders. The three BTC’s together represent a coalition of over 30 affiliated unions representing workers in various construction trades throughout the East Bay. Together, CTWI and the three BTC’s act as the collective voice of construction trade labor.

We support equitable efforts toward decarbonization and climate sustainability, and we believe the California Energy Commission (CEC) initiative to develop and implement an Equitable Building Decarbonization Program is a great opportunity to advance these shared goals. We appreciate the opportunity to submit comments for consideration.

It is important that equity be considered for all stakeholders involved in the program. We believe that decarbonization work and climate sustainability can be achieved in a manner that allows for everyone to be better off and collectively prosper. There is a clear emphasis in the program on equity for low-to-moderate-income residents and ensuring that the program is accessible to these residents. There must also be a clear emphasis on equity for the low-to-moderate-income workers who will be performing the work and labor involved in the program. The jobs created and utilized by the program should be quality, high road jobs available to local and disadvantaged residents.

Musk Abuses TX Construction Workers

42,000 jobs can be created making UK schools safer, greener and more energy efficient

By staff - Trades Union Congress, July 7, 2022

  • Funding already allocated covers just 3% of retrofits needed by schools, as energy bills rise by 93%
  • Unions hit back at government suggestions that existing funding for retrofits will be cut
  • It is “irresponsible” not to use existing technology so that schools will have more money for education and lower emissions, says TUC

Making UK school buildings energy efficient and fit for the future is a win-win, according to a new report published today (Thursday) by the TUC.

The report looks at the current spending on schools through the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme (PSDS), and estimates how much more investment is needed.

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.