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Working In These Times

Friday, Jul 19, 2013, 4:31 pm

Heat Wave Prompts Strike at Dunkin’ Donuts, McDonald’s

BY Mike Elk

The bagels are toasting themselves at a Chicago Dunkin' Donuts.   (Fight for 15)

Today, fast food workers at McDonald’s in Manhattan and a Dunkin’ Donuts in Chicago went on strike in order to protest being forced to work in sweltering conditions without air conditioning. The strike in New York City began after one McDonald’s worker, Esheliz Méndez, who had complained about the broken air conditioner at her workplace, collapsed and was taken away in an ambulance.

"In the middle of a heat wave like this, to be expected to stand in a hot kitchen with no air conditioning is inhumane and unsafe. We are human beings. We've told McDonalds before that the air conditioning doesn't work and that we can't take the heat but they don't listen to us. We can't take it anymore. No one should have to work like this," striking New York City McDonald's worker Jamne Izquierdo tells Working In These Times.

The strike over the heat conditions highlights the fact that, aside from providing workplace weather-related training, no federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rule exists to protect workers against heat stroke—despite the fact that National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health proposed a such a rule to OSHA 40 years ago, in 1972.

In the last 20 years alone, 563 workers have died on the job from heat-related causes, and 46,000 workers have suffered injuries as a result of heat exhaustion. However, despite the science behind heat stroke, there does not appear to be the political will to pass an OSHA rule to prevent it.

“It’s really just typical of every lack of a standard that we have seen at OSHA. Anything that requires a rulemaking because of the bureaucratic fighting with Congress, OSHA is very hesitant to do because of what is involved in fighting with Congress,” says Sammy Almashat, a research associate with Public Citizen. “When you talk about a standard such as heat that would be wide ranging across industries, obviously the political opposition is going to be quite wide, which is why we don’t have a heat standard rule today. Its really a case study of what's wrong with OSHA today that they haven’t issued a standard that has been recommended for 41 years.”

Mike Elk is an In These Times Staff Writer and a regular contributor to the labor blog Working In These Times. He can be reached at mike@inthesetimes.com.

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