FLOC Implements Heat Protections and Guidelines

BREAKING NEWS: FLOC has revisited and is now unilaterally implementing heat protection guidelines for more than 9,000 farm workers covered in our collective bargaining agreement in the Southern United States. These are some of the strongest guidelines in the United States, and our members are a handful of outdoor workers who have heat protections. Today we are strengthening The Mesa/Ordas Rule negotiated with the NCGA in 2006, which made FLOC the first group to address heat issues for farm workers in North Carolina in a concrete negotiated way. Heat stress issues were important then and even more so now.

The United States lacks any federal heat protections, and North Carolina lacks any state level protections as well. Given the lack of institutional support and protections, FLOC is utilizing its collective bargaining agreement, which states “workers have the right to take breaks as needed” to develop heat guidelines for when workers need to take breaks or seek medical attention. The guidelines given to workers are as follows:

When temperatures are nearing 85 degrees: If you experience the following symptoms leave the field and seek shade and water, do not wait for permission if a supervisor is not present: muscle cramps, headache, nausea, dizziness, increased heart rate, mild confusion, vomiting, and feeling faint. If there are objections from your supervisor, leave the field anyways and call your union. Water and breaks as needed are guaranteed.  

When temperatures are 95 degrees and higher: For your health and safety, you need to be taking a break at least every two and half hours in the shade with water, or you can take breaks as frequently as needed. If you experience the following symptoms, call 911 immediately: beyond the symptoms of heat exhaustion, if you or a coworker are observed with confusion, irrational behavior, hallucinations, rapid shallow breathing, weak pulse, loss of consciousness, or dry skin, call 911 and seek medical attention immediately.  

When experiencing extreme symptoms do not wait for permission from supervisors or employers, seek medical attention and shade immediately.  

If you receive any objections from farmers or supervisors, you must call the union immediately. We will resolve matters through the grievance procedure. Call the union at 919-731-4433 

With the rise of extreme weather and intense heat, it is critical to protect workers and ensure that they are getting necessary breaks, access to shade and water.

Our work to protect workers extends beyond implementing these guidelines.  FLOC’s 501c3 partner the Campaign for Migrant Worker Justice will be conducting a systemic campaign to educate and train workers. The education will include the new heat protection guidelines, signs and symptoms of heat stress, and how workers can protect themselves and others in fields through staying hydrated and knowing when to seek medical attention.  If workers receive any objections from farmers or supervisors, they must call the union immediately so we can resolve matters as quickly as possible.

This is an extreme undertaking given that FLOC has members on over 1,000 labor camps. These protections and trainings can be a matter of life and death.