For Immediate Release: Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024
Media Contact: Astrid Aune, 530.400.0509, email@example.com
Senator Jessica Ramos, Assembly Member Harry Bronson, Teamsters, Retail Workers, Safety Advocates Held Press Conference for Extreme Temperature Protections For Workers
ALBANY, NY – Senate Labor Chair Jessica Ramos, Assembly Labor Chair Harry Bronson, and Assemblywoman Jen Lunsford advocated for the TEMP Bill (S1604/A8935), legislation designed to protect workers from extreme temperatures. Workers shared their stories of struggling in extreme heat and extreme cold.
As freezing cold envelops Albany and much of upstate New York, workers aim to protect themselves from extreme temperatures and the impacts of climate change. The press conference was sponsored by La Colmena, National Employment Law Project, the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, Retail Wholesale Department Store Union (RWDSU), RWDSU Local 338, Teamsters Joint Council 16, Teamsters 294, Teamsters 804, and WE ACT for Environmental Justice.
“Worker protections have not kept pace with climate change. Heat exhaustion and frostbite are easy to avoid but difficult to recover from. My TEMP Bill asks employers to take responsibility for the health and safety of their workforce with simple, common-sense preventative measures. We can’t let another record-setting summer come without these protections in place,” said Jessica Ramos, Chair of the Senate Labor Committee.
In her Executive Budget Briefing Book, Governor Kathy Hochul signaled an interest in issuing guidance for employers to protect their workers. This coalition, backed by the sponsors of the TEMP Bill, advocated for the Governor’s proposal to go beyond mere guidance, and include actual, enforceable standards that will protect workers from extreme weather.
“No worker should be subject to employment conditions that put their health and safety at risk. The Temperature Extreme Mitigation Program (TEMP) Act, which I am sponsoring in the Assembly, will reaffirm New York’s commitment to safe workplace conditions. Every worker has the right to be treated fairly, compensated fairly and to be protected by workplace standards that eliminate exposure to dangerous working conditions, including extreme heat or cold, outdoors and indoors. I am proud to stand with Senator Ramos, legislative colleagues, NYCOSH and NELP, and my friends in Labor to help ensure safe temperatures are part of every job site,” said Assembly Member Harry Bronson, Assembly Chair of Labor.
“This press conference unites unions, worker organizations, environmental justice activists, and safety and health experts to call for common sense, enforceable protections for workers in extreme temperatures,” said Charlene Obernauer, Executive Director of NYCOSH.
“Our members are working day in and day out in extreme temperatures, icy streets, snowy weather, extreme heat, nothing stops us. We have a job, we get it done, and we get it done right. But my members are exposed to these extreme temperatures more or less without protection. The TEMP Act provides that much needed support,” said Stan Koniszewski, Business Agent of Teamsters 294.
According to the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation, statewide temperatures have risen by 3°F per decade for the past 45 years, and “The state’s average temperatures are projected to rise by as much as another 3°F by 2080 with the greatest warming occurring in the northern part of the state.”[i]
“The TEMP Bill provides critical protection to more than 1.7 million New York State workers in some of the industries and occupations most affected by the dangers of excessive heat and cold, two conditions that are going to increase under climate change predictions,” said Anastasia Christman, Senior Policy Analyst at the National Employment Law Project. “We also applaud the attention to the hundreds of thousands of workers employed through temporary and staffing agencies or who work part-time or seasonally as data shows that the greatest occupational dangers come in the early days on the job. This bill will save lives.”
“In order for our essential workers to do essential work, it must be in a fair and working environment, such as the School Cafeteria workers, working sometimes in 130° in the kitchen, totally unacceptable. It is inhumane and unhealthy to work under those high heat conditions. Local 372 members feed 900,000 NYC students everyday, however are met with the challenge of inadequate air conditioning or ventilation. It is time for us to stop being reactive and start being proactive. S1604/A8935 will prevent fatalities, Pass S1604/A3321 NOW! No more band aids, CREATE PERMANENT SOLUTIONS!” said Shaun D. Francois, I – President of DC 37 & Local 372.
Exposure to occupational cold can result in permanent damage to a worker’s neck and back and increased chances of carpal tunnel symptoms, while heat-stress can result in increased heart and respiratory levels and possible permanent damage to the brain, heart, lungs, kidneys, and liver.[i]
“Workplace health and safety is a top priority for the RWDSU and that is why we support the TEMP Bill,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). “As the union that represents carwash workers in New York, we know that extreme weather can take a toll on worker health. Carwashes are typically busiest during the coldest and snowiest weather, so workers are not only subject to freezing temperatures but are also constantly wet from washing cars. This combination can be very dangerous for a worker. Carwash workers deserve regular breaks to warm up as well as access to a warm indoor location during those breaks. These workers should also be trained to identify signs of cold illness and know their rights if such a situation occurs. The TEMP Bill would establish all of these standards and more. Given the rise in extreme temperatures due to climate change, carwash workers need the TEMP Bill to be passed without delay.”
“With the rise of extreme weather, it is becoming increasingly important that we take steps to protect New York’s workers from the short and long term impacts of climate change. This begins with the Temperature Extreme Mitigation (TEMP) Act, which will establish workplace standards on extreme temperatures and air quality events for workers in industries such as agriculture, who are exposed to the elements on a regular basis. As a union that represents farm workers, these protections are needed now more than ever, as the Farm Workers Fair Labor Practices Act is being litigated resulting in the limiting of farm workers to exercise their voice on the job. By passing this legislation, sponsored by State Senator Jessica Ramos and Assembly Member Harry Bronson, employers would be held accountable for the health and safety of workers in precarious industries like agriculture – potentially saving lives in the process,” said John R. Durso, President, Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW.
###[i] Charlotte Lewis, Albin Stjernbrandt, and Jens Wahlstrom, “The association between cold exposure and musculoskeletal disorders: a prospective population-based study,” International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health, January 2023. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00420-022-01949-2 ; Albin Stjernbrandt and Erlend Huftun Farbu, “Occupational cold exposure is associated with neck pain, low back pain, and lumbar radiculopathy,” Ergonomics, January 2022.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35023451/#:~:text=Reporting%20high%20occupational%20ambient%20cold,physical%20work%20load%2C%20daily%20smoking%2C ; Union of Concerned Scientists, “Killer heat in the United States,” July 2019. https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/killer-heat-united-states-0 [i] NYDEC, “Climate Change Effects and Impacts” webpage, accessed January 29, 2024.