Congresswoman Cori Bush Introduces Two Bills to Protect Workers from Climate and Environmental Hazards
Worker Safety in Climate Disasters Act & Wind Safety Standard Act would protect workers in high wind and disaster events.
Washington DC (September 14, 2022) – Today, Congresswoman Cori Bush (MO-01)introduced two pieces of legislation to protect worker health and safety by developing worker safety standards in the event of climate disasters and extreme weather. The Worker Safety in Climate Disasters Act would prevent workers from being fired for seeking shelter during disasters and offer paid time off for workers affected by those disasters. The Wind Safety Standard Act would require the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) to create a Wind Safety Standard modeled after the Heat Safety Standard to protect workers put in danger in the workplace by high wind conditions.
“As the climate crisis continues to accelerate, extreme weather and climate disasters have become more frequent and more severe, putting frontline workers and communities at the highest risk,” said Congresswoman Bush. “The devastating tornado that struck Edwardsville, IL late last year unnecessarily took the lives of six people working at Amazon, including two of my constituents. Unfortunately, Amazon’s failure to protect its workers represents a pattern of corporate malpractice during climate disasters. Big corporations cannot alone be trusted to ensure that workers are protected from climate emergencies. The safety of our workers, especially our most marginalized workers, should always be top priority. That is why I am proud to introduce both the Worker Safety in Climate Disasters Act and Wind Safety Standard Act. These bills will ensure our workers are better protected on the job and can go home safely no matter the climate or weather conditions.”
This legislation comes in response to the tragic deaths of six workers at an Amazon facility in Edwardsville, Illinois were forced to work through a tornado in December 2021 - including two of Congresswoman Bush’s constituents. Soon afterwards, a nearby Amazon warehouse failed to respond or prepare workers when multiple tornadoes touched down in the St. Louis Metro Area. Both bills mark the latest intervention in a long series of moves by Congresswoman Bush. In December 2021, directly after this tragic event, she led a letter with Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14) demanding answers from Amazon’s Executive Chairman, Jeff Bezos, and its President and CEO, Andy Jassy about the circumstances that led to the death of six employees. In March 2022, the Congresswoman, alongside Representatives Ocasi0-Cortez and Carolyn Maloney (NY-12), Chairwoman of the House Oversight Committee, officially launched an oversight investigation into Amazon’s labor practices.
Worker Safety in Climate Disaster Act
As climate disasters become increasingly common, workers frequently find themselves being placed in dangerous and unsafe positions and without health and safety protections. Across the country, there have been accounts of forced work during climate disasters, including Hurricanes Sandy and Ida, flooding in St. Louis, wildfires in California, and the Pacific Northwest heatwave.
The Worker Safety in Climate Disasters Actwould:
- Establish employer provided emergency paid time off (PTO) when an employee is unable to work due to a climate disaster
- Ensure that employees seeking shelter or using PTO during a disaster are not punished
- Require employers to monitor climate disasters and notify employees about them
- Prohibit interference with rights or discrimination by employers in these situations
Additional co-sponsors of this legislation include Representatives Jesús “Chuy” García (IL-04), Adriano Espillat (NY-13), Yvette Clarke (NY-09), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), Carolyn Maloney (NY-12), Raúl Grijalva (AZ-03), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Jamaal Bowman (NY-16), and Rashida Tlaib (MI-13).
The Workers Safety in Climate Disastersis endorsed by Missouri Workers Center, Our Revolution, Resilience Force, Taproot Earth, GreenLatinos, Green Workers Alliance, United for Respect, National Employment Law Project, Center for Biological Diversity, SEIU HCIIMK, Athena Coalition.
“Workers shouldn’t have to decide to risk their jobs to feel safe, or follow the company’s orders and fear for their lives. I work for a billion dollar company, but between heat-related deaths this around the country this summer and the workers killed in the Edwardsville tornado at an Amazon facility, it’s clear corporations like Amazon aren’t going to prioritize worker safety on their own. That’s why I’m proud to support Congresswoman Cori Bush and the Worker Safety in Climate Emergencies Act,” said J Lopez, Amazon Worker and member of Missouri Workers Center.
“It is all too common for low-wage workers to be asked to work during hurricanes and other dangerous storms. Even if given time off, poor people--who are disproportionately Black, Indigenous and People of Color--often don't have the money to evacuate. This bill would be an important step to ensuring that nobody is forced to shelter in place for a dangerous storm just because they are poor or because their employer forces them to. ,” said Taproot Earth.
“As extreme weather events and other climate emergencies continue to impact our lives and livelihoods, it is crucial to have regulations in place to protect the safety and economic security of workers affected by these events. Protecting worker safety and wages is essential to achieving an economically and environmentally just future,” said Andrea Marpillero-Colomina, Sustainable Communities Program Director, GreenLatinos
“Preventing workers from being fired for leaving work to seek safety during climate and natural disasters is crucial for those who work in renewable energy projects like wind and solar installations. The Green Workers is proud to support this bill to do just that,” said Matthew Mayers, Executive Director, Green Workers Alliance.
“We cannot allow corporations to put profit above workers’ lives. The terrible tragedy at the Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville demonstrates the need for robust protections to ensure people are safe at work, particularly during extreme weather events,” said Athena Coalition.
“Many of our members have lost their homes, their cars, seen their workplaces and communities destroyed in what were once described as once-in-a-lifetime storms. These climate and natural disasters are becoming the new normal but our laws have simply not kept up to keep workers safe. IUE-CWA is proud to endorse Rep. Cori Bush's "Worker Safety in Climate Emergencies Act" to ensure no worker will have to choose between their life and their livelihood,"said IUE-CWA President Carl Kennebrew.
Wind Safety Standard Act
The National Weather Service reports that dozens of people are killed by high winds every year, grouping it with heat, flooding, and rip currents as the leading weather-related dangers residents of the United States face. These tragedies most often happen due to unsafe conditions at work, yet workers currently lack consistent or comprehensive protections when working and/or operating machinery in high winds.
The Wind Safety Standard Act would:
- Require the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to develop a federal Wind Safety Standard modeled after the Heat Safety Standard to protect workers from workplace injuries during high wind conditions.
- Require employers to monitor wind conditions, provide safety training for affected employees, and create emergency high wind plans that include shelter in place and evacuation plans
- Include clear protections and standards for both outdoor (e.g. wind turbine technicians, window washers, cherry picker electrical work) and indoor(e.g. workers in shoddy warehouses during tornado and hurricane events) workers.
- Create a standard for high winds to be those that could knock an employee off an elevated location, cause them to lose control of materials, or expose them to additional hazards
- Assume that 40mph winds (or 30mph when handling materials) will be considered to be high winds
Additional co-sponsors of this legislation include Representatives Al Green (TX-09), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Raúl Grijalva (AZ-03), Jamaal Bowman (NY-16), André Carson (IN-07), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), and Yvette Clarke (NY–09).
The Wind Safety Standard Act is endorsed by United for Respect, Missouri Workers Center, Taproot Earth, Center for Biological Diversity, Green Workers Alliance, Our Revolution, GreenLatinos, Labor Network for Sustainability, St. Louis DSA, and SEIU HCIIMK.
“Nobody should be forced to work in the middle of a hurricane or any other dangerous storm. As the climate crisis continues to generate ever-increasing severe weather, we must make sure we have adequate protections for some of our most vulnerable workers,” said Taproot Earth.
“As climate crisis dangers continue to threaten the safety of workers, it is crucial to create protections that can prevent injury and save the lives of workers exposed to high winds. Latino/x workers are disproportionately exposed to extreme weather conditions and stand to benefit greatly from the passage of this bill, which will help ensure climate safe working conditions in all communities,” said Andrea Marpillero-Colomina, Sustainable Communities Program Director, GreenLatinos.
“As a former wind tech and site manager I have seen first-hand the dangers faced day to day by the skilled technicians on these projects. It is well known in the industry that OSHA has had no guidelines when it comes to working in the wind industry. As the industry continues to grow at a feverish pace, we need to ensure the safety of all these technicians in the field. OSHA needs to address these concerns and more to give the employees of this industry a safe and healthy workplace,” said Trent Nylander, Green Workers Alliance member.
Congresswoman Cori Bush sits on the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees, serves as the Progressive Caucus Deputy Whip, and proudly represents St. Louis as a politivist in the halls of the United States Congress.