Farmworkers in Florida will suffer because of climate change, report says

Floridians are no strangers to heat.

But a recent report says that rising temperatures due to climate change threatens a specific and often overlooked population of Florida residents – farmworkers.

The Farmworkers Association of Florida and national nonprofit political interest group Public Citizen co-authored the report.

Heat is a major health threat in Florida, and one that is going to worsen as the climate changes, the groups say. No federal rules exist which protect U.S. workers from heat stress, and this puts people who work outside – like farm and construction workers – at a higher risk for heat-related illness, according to the report.

“Many (workers) attempt to work through discomfort or illness without complaint because they cannot afford to lose work time or fear losing their jobs,” the report says. “They may speak little or no English, may not know their rights, or may lack proper work permits and fear deportation if they raise health concerns that could be perceived as complaints.”

Heat is the leading weather-related cause of death in the U.S. for the past 30 years, according to the National Weather Service, and the groups say it’s only going to worsen due to global rising temperatures.

“Under the administration of President Donald Trump, the U.S. government has been working aggressively to intensify rather than mitigate the problem of heat stress by accelerating the burning of fossil fuels,” the report says.

At some point in the year, temperatures in every county in Florida already exceed what is considered safe for workers to labor outside in, the report notes. As these temperatures increase, the report says, employers are going to have to find new ways to protect their outdoor laborers.

“At a time when federal policy aims to accelerate rather than mitigate global warming, Florida workers need protection from heat more than ever,” the report says. “It is therefore critical that other jurisdictions both work to mitigate climate change and begin protecting the populations that are most vulnerable to its harms.”

CD Davidson-Hiers
CD Davidson-Hiers is a 2017 summa cum laude graduate of Florida State University with a degree in Creative Writing and French. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Golden Key honors societies, and has received multiple writing awards for fiction, nonfiction and poetry. Prior to joining the Florida Phoenix, CD worked at the Tallahassee Democrat and has bylines in Tallahassee Magazine. She is a native of Pensacola and currently lives in Tallahassee with her tabby cat, Faulkner.

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