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Kamala Harris promotes new protections for workers exposed to extreme summer heat
“Heat is a workplace safety issue,” the vice president said in Philadelphia on Tuesday. “We’re going [workers] are receiving all of the protections that they are entitled to receive.”
FIRST THINGS FIRST
Now that Congress has funded the bipartisan infrastructure bill it passed last fall, the White House is looking forward to a summer of construction as workers repair bridges, replace lead pipes and lay broadband fiber. But while you’re likely looking forward to some much-deserved fun in the sun, the hot weather puts those workers at risk of serious heat-related emergencies.
Vice President Kamala Harris on Tuesday traveled to Philadelphia to announce a new program that will empower the Occupational, Health and Safety Administration to inspect heat-related workplaces across the country before workers suffer preventable injuries, illnesses or fatalities.
“This is such an important step,” Liz Shuler, president of AFL-CIO, the largest federation of unions in the US, said to Supercreator. “We look forward to continuing to work with OSHA to create a heat illness prevention standard and to using every other available avenue to ensure employers are protecting workers from heat exposures.”
The program also establishes heat inspection goals and aligns OSHA’s standard for initiating inspections with when the National Weather Service issues heat advisories or heat warnings. For example, OSHA inspectors will be directed to look out for heat-related hazards during all inspections on days when the heat index is 80°F or higher.
“Heat is a workplace safety issue,” Harris said during her speech. “Some people who don’t understand need to understand that the workplace to get the jobs done that will make life easier for most people in our country, that workplace is not necessarily an office with air conditioning.”
Although heat-related injuries and illnesses can happen anywhere in the US, the administration is especially optimistic the program Harris announced will prevent them in populations that are unaccustomed to heat stress and at increased risk of adverse health outcomes from extreme heat.
There were 43 work-related deaths due to environmental heat exposure in 2019, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This was lower than the high of 61 deaths in 2011 but higher than the number in all but one year from 2012 to 2018.
Despite this data, companies will tell you that they can keep their workers safe without intervention from the federal government.
And during the Trump administration, this theory was tested: OSHA was hamstrung through underfunded programs and deregulation that prohibited employers from hiding injury reports from the public.
OSHA also operated without an administrator for all of Trump’s only term in office. Douglas Parker was confirmed by the Senate last October and has served as the agency’s leader since Nov. 2021.)
But President Biden has long positioned himself as a worker-friendly politician who supports the expansion of employee power and protections — and he’s molded his administration in his image.
Harris isn’t new to the cause either.
During her time in the Senate, she partnered with Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Rep. Judy Chu of California to introduce a bill that would have required OSHA to develop a federal heat standard to protect workers. (The bill — named after Asuncion Valdivia, a farmworker who lost his life after picking grapes for 10 hours in 105-degree heat — also sets minimum requirements for the standard to mitigate the damage industry interests might do to the rule.)
Chu told Supercreator that she raised the issue of heat injuries and needless deaths directly with Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and is thrilled to see his agency action being taken.
“The threat of climate change has created new dangers for workplaces across the country, from farms to warehouses and delivery trucks,” Chu, who introduced the first heat-stress law in California, said in a statement to Supercreator. “The administration’s announcement [on Tuesday] is a critical first step that will save countless lives, but we must continue to push for legislative action in order to federally codify this heat standard, ensuring the rules do not change with each administration.”
As vice president, Harris also has led a year-old task force on worker organizing and empowerment that released a report in February with 70 recommendations — including ways to advise workers on their existing right to join and/or organize a union, and the legally defined process of how to do so. (The task force is scheduled in August to deliver a second report that updates President Joe Biden on its progress and proposes additional recommendations for further action.)
“We’re going to put these values in place. We’re going to put these rules in place. And we’re going to monitor to make sure that the workers aren’t out there without us making sure that they are receiving all of the protections that they are entitled to receive,” Harris said during her speech. “Our administration is going to continue this fight until every worker is protected, by using every tool at our disposal to mitigate the danger posed by extreme heat.”
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TODAY IN POLITICS
President Biden this morning will receive his daily intelligence briefing with Vice President Harris.
Harris this afternoon will also convene a meeting with cabinet officials on maternal health in her ceremonial office. This evening, the vice president will participate in a local fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee.
First Lady Jill Biden will travel to Missouri to visit an elementary and high school in recognition of the Month of the Military Child. She will be joined by Education Secretary Miguel Cardona and both will speak at an assembly after visiting an Air Force base.
Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff will visit a local Jewish day school to celebrate Passover with elementary and middle school students.
The House is out.
The Senate is out.
IN THE KNOW
The New York Police Department on Tuesday named a person of interest in the Brooklyn Subway shooting that left at least 23 people injured. Officials are unsure if he was the gunman who tossed two smoke grenades on the floor of the car of a Manhattan-bound train during morning rush hour and began firing 33 shots before fleeing. The shooting is the worst in the history of the New York City subway. (Andy Newman, Troy Closson, Ashley Southall and Michael Gold / NYT)
The NYPD Counterterrorism Unit is working with the Joint Terrorism Task Force, FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to investigate the shooting. “Anything they need, anything they want, we are here to help them and provide that to them,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Tuesday during a Q&A with reporters en route to Iowa.
President Biden characterized the mass killing at the hands of the Russian military in Ukraine as “genocide” for the first time. “It has become clearer and clearer that [Vladimir] Putin is just trying to wipe out the idea of even being able to be Ukrainian,” Biden said after his speech in Iowa about the rising costs of gas and food.
Biden held an almost-40-minute call with Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom on Tuesday before traveling to Iowa. The two leaders discussed Johnson’s recent visit to Ukraine and how they would continue to provide security and humanitarian assistance to the country as it defends itself against Russia’s invasion.
44 percent of adults would support a policy that made it mandatory to wear a mask in public indoor places in their area. The poll was conducted a day after Philadelphia reinstated its mask requirement in schools, businesses, government buildings and restaurants starting next week. (YouGov)
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki called a new Oklahoma abortion ban the most restrictive law in the country. “This unconstitutional attack on women’s rights is just the latest and of the most extreme state laws signed into law to date,” she said in a statement. “Make no mistake: the actions today in Oklahoma are a part of disturbing national trend attacking women’s rights and the Biden Administration will continue to stand with women in Oklahoma and across the country in the fight to defend their freedom to make their own choices about their futures.”
Democratic Lieutenant Gov. Brian Benjamin of New York resigned from his position after he was arrested for alleged conspiracy to commit bribery. Benjamin served as the top deputy to Gov. Kathy Hochul, who replaced former Gov. Andrew Cuomo after he stepped down in the wake of sexual harassment allegations and is currently seeking reelection. (In the spirit of full disclosure, Benjamin and I are members of the same church although he and I do not share a personal relationship outside of previously exchanging pleasantries.) (Marina Villeneuve and Tom Hays / AP News)
Yelp announced it would cover expenses for its employees and their spouses who must travel out of state for abortion care, a response to a Texas law that bans the procedure around six weeks of pregnancy. The San Francisco-based crowd-sourced review app employs a little more than 200 workers but said the benefit extends to other states who may be impacted by current or future anti-abortion laws. (Alisha Haridasani Gupta and Lauren Hirsch / NYT)
Teen overdose deaths are on the rise even though fewer of them use drugs. Researchers said the amount of fentanyl being sold to them in the form of counterfeits of common medications — and the lack of awareness of the risks they face taking these pills — is a big part of the problem. (Madeline Holcombe / CNN)
READ ALL ABOUT IT
Joe Pinsker on how homeownership changes you:
Perhaps forgotten amid the bidding wars and the rush to lock in a mortgage as interest rates rise is the fact that this transaction has a way of changing people as well. In addition to buying an assemblage of wood, glass, and other materials and committing to a host of unfamiliar chores, homeowners are also buying a psychological grab bag of new stressors, time sucks, comforts, perks, and trivial fixations—such as the neighbors’ comings and goings. Homeownership can change your mental time horizon, your conception of your community, and your stakes in a physical place.
Emmanuel Felton on Selma, Alabama:
This Black Belt city of 18,000 residents, more than 80 percent of whom are African American, is one of the poorest in the country. Many of its homes and storefronts are visibly in disrepair. The median household income is $26,581, according to census data, about 40 percent of the national average. Over a third of its residents live in poverty — including nearly 60 percent of its children. Unemployment is double the national rate.
Like many of the cities across the Deep South that became household names during the Civil Rights Era, the victories won with blood and lives haven’t translated into economy opportunity in Selma. In some cases, activists say, ground has been lost, such as in voting rights.
Sarah Jones on why the Christian right’s war on LGBTQ people never ended:
Marriage equality is still legal in the United States, but the Christian right has renewed its assault on LGBTQ rights.
With conservatives in control of the Supreme Court, the future of LGBTQ rights in this country looks murky indeed. In truth, Obergefell was always fragile. Though public opinion largely favors the ruling, the court’s 5-4 decision was narrow, and it rested lightly on top of fraught political ground. Millions of people did not change their religious beliefs when gay marriage became legal. To the Christian right, this is a battle with supernatural stakes. Evil is a real presence in the world and it manifests itself on what Richard Land once called the gay side of the street. Something greater than the Magic Kingdom is at stake. The souls of children are there for the taking.
The high court was always the wrong place for liberals to look for progress, because no decision can alter the Christian right’s religious convictions. Nor could the court defund or tax the wealthy organizations and churches that have kept LGBTQ rights fixed squarely in their sights. Abortion is only one plank in a comprehensive right-wing worldview. The Christian right’s views on sex and gender are places where its authoritarian bent are most visible, and its anti-democratic tendencies come most clearly to the fore. The movement seeks total power, over even the urges of the body. Where desire bucks the right’s mastery, the unruly body must be ground to dust.
The truth is [Ketanji Brown Jackson], qualified as she is to have earned confirmation, was maligned not for her views, which were within the judicial mainstream, but because McConnell’s political strategy is to advance a conservative ideological design by any means necessary. He denied a white, male centrist, Merrick Garland, a confirmation hearing and now suggests a Black woman is an extremist. The gaslighting effort to design an activist conservative bench is what we should find extreme.
Sam Dean on AriZona iced tea:
Gas is nearly six bucks a gallon. Groceries are 8% higher than last year. Dollar stores: now dollar-and-a-quarter stores.
But a giant, 23-ounce can of AriZona iced tea still costs 99 cents, the same price it has been since it hit the market 30 years ago. Today, that’s cheaper than most bottled water, 20-ounce sodas, iced teas and canned coffees on the market. If you could fill your car up with cans of AriZona Green Tea with Ginseng and Honey, it would be cheaper than L.A. gas by nearly 40 cents a gallon.
How does AriZona pull this off while everything else goes up? The price of aluminum has doubled in the last 18 months. The price of high fructose corn syrup has tripled since 2000. Gas prices are pumping up delivery costs. One 1992 dollar, adjusted for inflation, is worth two 2022 dollars. But the 99-cent Big AZ Can, as the company calls it, persists.
The short answer: the company is making less money. The big cans are still profitable, but for the moment, they’re much less so than a few years ago.
To watch Davis act is to witness a deep-sea plunge into a feeling: Even when her characters are opaque, you can sense her under the surface, empathetic and searching. This skill has been on display since the beginning of her film career, when she garnered award nominations for performances that were fewer than 15 minutes long. There’s an industry achievement called the Triple Crown of Acting: an actor winning an Oscar, an Emmy and a Tony. Only 24 actors hold the title, and Davis is the only African American.
Davis is also, then, a member of the small troupe of former theater actors who have made the jump to movie stardom, and you can recognize that gravitas, that same finesse that makes me sit up straighter whenever I see James Earl Jones onscreen. But there is also vulnerability alongside her poise. The more time I spent with her, the more I wondered if, by embodying someone else’s tragedies, she was able to wrench her own to the surface. Reading her memoir, “Finding Me,” which is being published on April 26, you understand where her ability comes from: Only someone who has already been dragged into the depths of emotion readily knows how to get back there.
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