As California finally enjoys relief after a summer of sweltering temperatures, lawmakers in Congress are trying to pass a bill to protect those who work in extreme heat.

The Asunción Valdivia Heat Illness and Fatality Prevention Act — co-sponsored by Monterey Park Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., Rep. Alma Adams, D-N.C., and Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz. — aims to protect indoor and outdoor workers against occupational exposure to excessive heat.

It’s an issue Chu said she has been battling for since 2004, when she was a state assemblywoman.

“The United Farm Workers came to me horrified because of what happened to Mr. Asunción Valdivia,” she recalled. “He was a farmworker who was picking grapes in 105 degree temperatures for 10 hours straight when he fell over.”

Rather than taking him to a hospital, his employer told his son to take him home. 

“His son had to watch his father die of a preventable heatstroke at the age of 53. This was a story that was repeated over and over again for farmworkers,” she said.

California was the first state in the country to enact heat protections for outdoor workers. But when Chu arrived in Congress, she said she was surprised to learn there wasn’t a national equivalent. 

“Due to climate change, the last eight years have been the hottest on the globe in history,” Chu said. “And so we have to do more to protect our workers.”

The bill would require the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, to protect those who work in hazardous heat by mandating paid breaks in cool spaces, access to water, limits on time spent in the heat and emergency response for those suffering heat related illness or injury.

For Chu, the push for protections has become even more personal, after 24-year-old Esteban Chavez Jr. died of heat stroke in June while delivering packages in her district.

“Drivers like Esteban are under pressure to reach daily delivery quotas. And UPS workers say that without air conditioning in the trucks, their temperatures inside are 10 degrees hotter than the outside,” Chu said. “And so can you imagine right now, their trucks could be well over 110 degrees.”

The bill is expected to get a floor vote in the House in the coming weeks, and California Sen. Alex Padilla is a sponsor in the upper chamber. 

“Workers in California and across the country are too often exposed to dangerous heat conditions in the workplace. In the past year, Californians have faced extreme heat temperatures from wildfires, while trying to navigate the unique challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic — risking the health and safety of our workers,” Padilla said in a statement. “This vital legislation will hold employers accountable and ensure workplace protections are put in place to prevent further heat stress illnesses and deaths from happening.”

We reached out to the Department of Labor, which oversees OSHA, to see if they support the legislation, but we did not hear back.