The Texas Democrat did not drink, eat, or take a break for over eight hours, as temperatures in Washington D.C. broached 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Casar had planned to go “until nurses require him to stop,” according to a press release from his office.
“Today I’m on a thirst strike on the steps of the U.S. Capitol — not drinking water or taking breaks, through rain or shine, in solidarity with our nation’s workers,” Casar tweeted. “Currently there are NO federal protections for workers exposed to heat.”
Casar remained on the steps of the Capitol in an effort to urge the Biden Administration to mandate nationwide worker protections, which they have previously endorsed. Amid extreme heat, Casar and over 100 members of Congress urged Labor Secretary Julie Su to move toward the “fastest implementation possible” in a letter Monday.
“Our nation — and my home state of Texas — is experiencing a historic heatwave — exposing workers to deadly 100°+ temperatures,” Casar tweeted. “Yet in the middle of this heatwave, @GregAbbott_TX signed a law *eliminating* workers rights to water breaks.”
“Enough is enough: we MUST go over Greg Abbott’s head. That’s why I’m urging @POTUS to take action for workers with federal heat safety protections. We can undo Greg Abbott’s assault on working families," he added.
In June, Texas Republicans stripped power from the state's largely Democratic-run cities and put it in the hands of the state government. Many existing city ordinances including heat protections for outdoor workers, were immediately nullified. No statewide protections exist in Texas, including offering water breaks in shaded areas, heat illness response, access to air-conditioned spaces, and access to sunscreen and sweat-wicking apparel.
At least 53 Texas workers have died of heat-related illness since 2010, according to NPR and Columbia Journalism Investigations. The number of 100-degree days is also increasing due to climate change, and is expected to nearly double by 2036. A study from nonprofit Public Citizen found that 170,000 injuries and 2,000 deaths from heat stress occur in United States workplaces every year. 50,000 injuries could be prevented with federal heat protections.
When he concluded his strike Tuesday, Casar expressed that it would only be the beginning of his push to implement heat protections.
"No water, no breaks, all day in the heat of the Capitol steps today — and I feel stronger & more inspired than EVER by our movement to put people over profit," he wrote. "We're tougher than any right wing lobby group. We're more committed than any heartless governor. Let's go."