The Los Angeles Times has published a detailed, eye-opening piece on the extreme heat risks that Rite Aid warehouse workers face in Southern California.
“Temperatures inside the Rite Aid warehouse can climb to 90 degrees or higher and simmer there for hours, according to workers and a week’s worth of the drugstore company’s 2020 temperature records.
Photos of temperature readings workers shared with The Times show that on a scorching day last July, it was already 88 degrees inside the warehouse by 5:30 a.m.
Under the union contract, supervisors are required to give workers a five-minute break when temperatures reach 90. They get a 10-minute break when it hits 100 degrees. The union stewards carry their own digital heat monitors to keep managers honest, but they acknowledge the breaks don’t offer much relief.
By contrast, military personnel stationed at nearby Edwards Air Force Base are protected by heat regulations that require 40 minutes of rest for every 20 minutes of work when they are performing moderate labor in temperatures over 90 degrees.
Tap water is available for drinking, but some Rite Aid workers interviewed for this story said that what comes out of the warehouse’s faucets is ‘gray,’ ‘really dirty’ and ‘doesn’t taste like water.’ One employee said she brings in six bottles of water every day. A Rite Aid spokesman said the company filters its water.
Some workers said they check the weather forecast in the morning and, on occasion, decide to stay home to avoid the heat, forfeiting a day’s pay.
When workers complain to supervisors, Ramos said, ‘their reaction is always, “We can’t do anything about it — it’s upper management.” That’s as far as it goes.’
Ortiz, the employee who suffered two bouts of heat exhaustion, said she returned to the warehouse after her second episode with a note from her doctor recommending that she be allowed to work in an air-conditioned space for the rest of the summer. She was overheating, her joints ached and her psoriasis was flaring. She said Rite Aid denied her request.”