A new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) warns that the health and safety of workers across the country, both indoors and outdoors, is increasingly at risk from excessive heat, increasing air and water pollution, spreading infectious diseases, extreme weather, and other impacts from climate change.
The report, "On the Front Lines: Climate Change Threatens the Health of America’s Workers," features 14 first-hand stories from workers impacted by climate change, including CWA members.
Rapid changes in the climate and recent rollbacks in occupational safeguards are leaving state and federal agencies unable to hold employers accountable for dangerous and unhealthy workplaces. To address these problems, the report calls for federal legislation and action by federal agencies to improve health protections for workers.
"The effects that climate change is having on workers are undeniable," said CWA President Chris Shelton. "We can't bury our heads in the sand while workers are putting their lives on the line as the situation worsens. As big oil and gas companies are reaping mega-profits and destroying our planet, CWA members and other workers are increasingly being exposed to dangerously high temperatures and other serious workplace hazards. We must pursue aggressive legislative solutions to give OSHA the mandate and resources to identify these workplace hazards, respond to them rapidly and adequately, and implement and enforce stronger safety protections – but those steps alone are not enough. We must also expand collective bargaining rights to ensure that more workers have a voice on the job and a say over working conditions, including their health and safety."
"In recent years, we've been having wildfires one right after the other, which can stretch for hundreds of miles," said Shawn Heape, an AT&T telephone line technician and a member of CWA Local 9400, who is featured in the report. "During wildfire season, I work 16 hours a day, seven days a week, for up to four months straight. My coworkers and I are dealing with heat exhaustion and breathing in soot, ash, and toxic chemicals. Companies like AT&T and our elected officials need to start taking steps to protect those of us who are working in and around wildfires to keep communications services going."