The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

The Working Class Takes the Heat

Sep 12, 2022

It was the working class that took the brunt of the record high temperatures in the long heat wave that hit California in early September.

While the bosses kept cool and well hydrated in their luxurious, air-conditioned offices, millions of essential workers in commercial kitchens, garment factories, gigantic warehouses and delivery trucks endured temperatures that were much hotter than the extreme heat outside. Not only are the workplaces not air conditioned, the machinery and equipment radiate even more heat. So, when it was 110 degrees outside, workers baked and boiled under temperatures of over 120 degrees. Other workers, such as in agriculture and construction, labored long hours directly under the sun, often wearing heavy equipment that traps the heat against their bodies, like a sauna.

Meanwhile, during the heat wave workers’ children were not allowed to go outside during school recess because the school grounds have no grass, no trees or shade structures. And the playgrounds are often the hottest areas in any community because of the large swaths of asphalt. There is even a lack of cool, drinkable water in the schools. Kids tell their parents the water from campus fountains is too hot or metallic tasting.

And the heat did not let up when workers got home. Working class neighborhoods in the big cities are densely packed, with very little greenery and natural shade—unlike where the rich people live. On the contrary, it’s all concrete and asphalt that radiate heat even long into the night. Moreover, a big percentage of workers do not have air conditioning. And even when they do, they can’t afford to run it very long because of the already extremely high utility bills.

Heat kills. Even U.S. government statistics admit that every year, dozens of workers die and thousands more are injured from heat stress on the job—statistics which are surely an undercount. And the toll from severe heat is much, much higher for the sick and vulnerable.

Bosses, landlords, government officials know this full well. But in their drive to increase profits, the capitalists and their lackeys are always on the lookout to cut costs and increase productivity. They don’t even bother to do the little things that could improve working conditions. So, the effects of the heat wave magnified and extended the gross inequalities and poor conditions that the capitalist class imposes on the working class every single day.