Construction Worker
Representational image Olalde

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a state bill preventing local governments from imposing their own heat exposure protection measures.

The initiative, which had been passed by the Legislature last month, had the backing of local business groups and the opposition of others.

"Small business owners don't have the time or the resources to navigate a confusing and contradictory array of local ordinances that go beyond (what) the state already mandates," said in a statement Bill Herrle, Florida director of the National Federation of Independent Business.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that more than 90 organizations opposed the measure, including the the Farmworker Association of Florida and the NAACP Florida State Conference, which sent letters to the governor seeking a veto.

"Floridians feel it getting hotter and understand how difficult and dangerous it is to labor in the sun and heat," reads a passage of the opponents' letter.

The initiative began after Miami-Dade authorities last year considered requiring construction and agriculture companies some measures to ensure their workers would be protected from the heat.

They included workers having access to water and giving them 10-minute breaks in the shade every two hours when the temperature reached or surpassed 95 °F.

At the moment there are no federal standards to protect outdoor workers in the country from heat and humidity, a situation that can become deadly as temperatures continue rising at a global level.

Heat stress kills several workers every year, according to figures from the Labor Department. And the danger is only set to increase as the world continues to break heat records. 2024's was the hottest March in recorded history, setting a record for the 10th consecutive month.

In this context, a group of tomato farmworkers in the state got national attention for pushing for a series of concessions that make their shifts more tolerable. The result is the strongest set of workplace heat protections in the country.

The guidelines are a result of the negotiation by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and Sunripe Certified Brands, the company who owns this particular farm.

They include tables with shade for when they get exhausted, coolers with water and energy drinks and bathrooms.

They also have mandatory 10-minute breaks every two hours when temperatures exceed 80°F and a complete halt when they go above 105 °F.

According to the Washington Post, another agreement between the former and the Fair Food Program certifies farms that follow such rules, placing them first in line to sell their products to 14 big produce buyers, among them Walmart, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods and McDonald's.

Buyers agree to pay a small premium to ensure the produce comes from farms adhering to these guidelines, while those who get kicked out of the program are blacklisted.

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