A Democratic congressman from Texas is participating in a brief thirst and hunger strike Tuesday to “draw attention to the need for a federal workplace heat standard, including protections for rest and water breaks.”
A communications director for Rep. Greg Casar, whose district stretches from Austin to San Antonio, said the congressman began the strike at 10:30 a.m. and would “go as long as he’s physically able.” A release from Casar’s office said he would go with “no water, no food, and no break, until nurses require him to stop.”
“A basic thing like the right to a water break, a basic thing like being able to work and know that working is not a death sentence, is the baseline of what our democracy should be able to do,” Casar said Tuesday. He cited a law signed by Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott last month that prohibits local officials from enacting rules on businesses that supersede state regulations, which Casar said will prevent water breaks.
Casar’s office referred to the event as a vigil, and it was organized on the steps of the US Capitol. The Texas Democrat was joined by civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, and some House Democrats, including House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries and Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Maxwell Frost, briefly joined the crowd.
Casar said Tuesday that he had spoken with Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su, who is “working hard to get a federal heat standard done.”
CNN has reached out to the Department of Labor for comment.
On Monday, more than 100 members of Congress signed a letter to the Department of Labor calling for an Occupational Safety and Health Administration standard as the country grapples with dangerously high temperatures.
“In Dallas, Texas, a USPS employee of over 40 years died while on his route in 115-degree heat. In Harrison County, Texas, a 35-year-old lineman working to restore power died, likely from heat exhaustion. We know extreme weather events such as heat waves are becoming more frequent and more dangerous due to climate change. Urgent action is needed to prevent more deaths,” the letter states.
Heat kills more Americans than any other form of severe weather, including flooding, hurricanes or extreme cold, according to National Weather Service data, and scientists have warned there’s a growing likelihood that 2023 could be the Earth’s hottest year on record.
Outdoor workers are among those who are at high risk for heat exposure along with the elderly, low-income families, communities of color and those experiencing homelessness.
This headline and story have been updated with additional details.