Amidst a heat wave that has sent temperatures skyrocketing to unprecedented highs nationwide, America’s workers, particularly people of color, undocumented workers, pregnant women, and those in low-wage positions are facing increased threats to their health and safety on the job due to heat exposure. As we highlighted in a recent fact sheet, due to climate change, heat waves are predicted to increase in intensity and frequency—and we must act urgently to ensure all workers can stay safe and healthy on the job as we grapple with this reality.
For pregnant women working in such conditions, the effects of high temperatures can be especially detrimental to their health and the health of their babies. In May, we co-hosted a virtual Congressional briefing alongside Senator Ed Markey, Representative Lauren Underwood, healthcare experts, and leading reproductive justice organizations to discuss the adverse impact the climate crisis has had on maternal health—especially amid the Black maternal health crisis—and uplift policy solutions. Pregnant women of color, especially Black women, already disproportionately face adverse maternal and infant health outcomes, and exposure to heat stress has been shown to exacerbate these adverse outcomes. During this same briefing, ABB Community Advocate Tesia, a retail worker from Missouri, shared her story with Congress. Tesia was denied access to water—a simple accommodation—whilst pregnant and working in the hottest part of the store, and was ultimately forced to quit to protect the health of herself and her baby. Policies like the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and the Protecting Moms and Babies Against Climate Change Act (H.R. 957) will offer concrete first steps in mitigating the toll climate change is taking on mothers and their babies.
We must not delay in taking all necessary measures to combat the climate crisis, and as temperatures rise to dangerous levels across the nation, it’s more important than ever to pass policies that allow vulnerable workers the time and accommodations they need to protect their health in high-heat work conditions. If you have questions about your rights while working in high-heat conditions, contact our free confidential legal helpline at 1-833-NEED-ABB.