Heat stroke is a severe, but completely preventable, disease that can result in death. This disease happens when someone spends too much time in the sun in very strong heat. Each year, about 600 people in the United States die of heat stroke. It is twice as likely that a Mexican-American will suffer a death related to heat stroke. This is largely because a significant portion of this community works outside in the sun and under extremely difficult conditions.
A member of the house of representatives is trying to combat the deaths caused by heat stroke with a new law. Congresswoman Judy Chu, representative of the 27th district of California, has presented in Congress a bill called "The Asuncion Valdivia Heat Illness and Fatality Prevention Act.” This bill was inspired by the death of Asunción Valdivia, a worker who died of heat stroke after working 10 hours in a row at temperatures over 40 degrees Celsius.
Currently under the laws of the state of California, employers in this state are required to give paid workers shade and water breaks. The new bill by representative Chu would create a similar law at the federal level. The proposal would force all employers in the United States to provide paid shade and water breaks and also train employees on the risks of heat stroke. The approval of this proposal will be a great triumph for workers.
Although there is currently no federal law that requires employers to take paid breaks, it is very important that you take care of your health and rest if you begin to feel the symptoms of heat stroke. These symptoms include: dizziness, weakness, dehydration, dry mouth, blurred vision, and cabin pain. Remember - health is important and if you feel very bad you should take care of yourself no matter what your employer says. If you feel that your employer retaliates against you for taking a break, contact us at Centro de los Derechos del Migrante to see how we can help you.