Workers continue to die from high heat and employer neglect, while an OSHA standard may be years off and Texas Governor Greg Abbott rolls back worker protections:
HOMESTEAD, Fla. – A South Florida farm worker has died after working during the historic heat wave and, on Wednesday, the Farmworker Association of Florida Homestead Office held a vigil and press conference in Efrain Lopez Garcia’s honor.
Friends and loved ones say Lopez Garcia complained about feeling sick during a recent shift out in the heat.
The 30-year-old was found unresponsive and was later pronounced dead. His official cause of death has not yet been released.
Heat doesn’t kill workers. The employer’s failure to protect workers from the heat kills workers. And some localities have decided to do something about it.
But make no mistake: Heat doesn’t kill workers. The employer’s failure to protect workers from the heat kills workers. And some localities have decided to do something about it.
In Florida’s Miami-Dade County,
County commissioners unanimously passed a preliminary measure to adopt a heat standard for workers.
It would require a safety program educating workers and their supervisors about heat exposure risk, the right to a 10-minute paid rest and shaded water breaks every two hours. A new county office will also be opened to enforce these protections.
“It will be the first such law in Florida, and it will be the strongest such law if it passes as is in the entire nation,” Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said.
It wasn’t just the goodness of their hearts — nor even the death of Efrain Lopez Garcia — that pushed the commissioners to action. It was good, old-fashioned organizing by the Farm Worker Association of Florida.
“We want employers to know to educate their employees about how to take care of themselves – basic needs: water, shade, breaks – to work with someone, not to be left alone. You never know what’s going to happen, so unfortunately, this death occurred and we tried preventing it,” said Yvette Cruz, of the Farm Workers Association of Florida.
Luis Campos told Local 10 News in Spanish that most bosses aren’t considerate of what workers are going through in this heat.
It’s the same sentiment we heard from many outdoor workers off camera in Homestead.
“The county and the state should make strict laws to protect workers,” Campos said.
Lopez Garcia is one of at least two farmworkers suspected to have died from being exposed to extreme heat in recent weeks.
The tragedies fueled protests outside the Miami-Dade County Government building Tuesday, calling for action to protect outdoors workers exposed to dangerous heat.
Of course, as we’ve written before, if this were Texas, the Miami-Dade ordinance would be illegal. Texas Governor Gregg Abbott has signed a law forbidding localities from passing any ordinances more strict than state rules. And Texas has no state rules to protect workers from heat. Existing heat protections for workers in Dallas and Austin will die on September 1.
Let’s hope that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis doesn’t follow Abbott’s lead and make Florida into the state where workers go to die.