Heat takes toll on kids and classrooms

You can’t get any more real than this item from Wendy Hord, NYSUT’s health and safety specialist, who has been tracking situations around the state related to unsafe heat levels in  schools.

One member e-mailed:

“If you leave an animal in conditions of extreme heat, you can be arrested. But it’s okay for a child (or adults) to be forced to remain and function in those conditions. Have we not totally left the days of “sweat shops?”

Here’s the latest from Wendy:

“Thanks to those of you who responsed to our first heat blog. NYC Mayor Bloomberg should read this, but he still may say from his air conditioned office “suck it up.”
We’ve been receiving  legitimate concerns about health impacts of excessive heat and humidity, including dizziness and nausea; pregnant employees getting ill; and classroom materials (paper, art supplies) being ruined. I guess many districts are choosing to spend money on replacing hundreds and thousands of dollars worth of materials and loss of productivity and learning vs. providing fans, room air conditioning or relocation. And they blame our members for budgetary hardship!

Well, we’re having a tough time getting the temperature bill moving before the end of the session (S2824 and A2344). The bill would prohibit districts from using space for students and staff if an area(s) is 90 degrees. It’s not perfect, because 90 is still quite hot, but it’s something.

So what do you do about summer school ? And also, let’s not forget fall can still be quite warm.

There has to be a campaign to “Beat the Heat.” Here’s at least one idea to get started:

Jefferson County AFT in Alabama doesn’t have collective bargaining rights but they have aggressive campaigns to help get what they need, including one for cafeteria workers who didn’t have air conditioning. The strategy can be used anywhere.

•They did a survey asking if people had heat symptoms: vomiting, dizziness, headaches, weakness or asthma attacks.

•They asked if the person wanted the union to take immediate steps to address the risk caused by extreme heat.

•They put out fliers using OSHA information about heat stress and how to help cope with it.

•They also put out what they call a “Red Alert”  sent to every political representative in their community, including state representatives. The headline was “JEF CO ED OFFICIALS AND BOARD MEMBERS FORGOT THEIR UPBRINGING AND IF THEIR WORD WAS GOOD THERE’D BE NO SWEAT IN THE MASHED POTATOES.”

They got a response – air conditioning was provided in the cafeterias/kitchens within a reasonable period of time.

We will share what you have told us about your experiences working in such hot conditions in our attempt to convince legislators that the bill  is a very reasonable step to help staff and students when indoor temperatures are so high.

I encourage all of you to go back to your districts and locals and start a campaign to address the problem. And, as always, give us your feedback and what your experiences are in your local attempts to fight back.

And – please contact your state legislators to support the bill.

Thanks to those of you who responsed to our first heat blog.

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