Dallas City Council Yet To Act On Construction Workers’ Demands For Water Breaks

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How controversial is a 10 minute rest and water break every 4 hours for construction workers in the scorching Texas heat? Well, that depends on who you ask, and the answers range from it being a no-brainer to a non-issue.

The Workers’ Defense Project is leading the effort for mandatory rest breaks for construction workers in the city of Dallas. It has launched a petition on Change.org, stating that one-third of Dallas’ roughly 112,000 construction workers do not currently receive breaks.

At a “thirst strike” outside City Hall the Executive Director for Workers’ Defense Project Cristina Tzintzun said,

“We’re here because the hard working men and women who build our schools, our homes, our roadways and this very City Council Plaza don’t have the right to rest. For them it is a question, literally, of life and death.”

Self proclaimed conservative city councilman Lee Kleinman blamed the controversy on “hysteria over heat,” and thought officials’ time would be better spent dealing with “loose dogs and stuff like that.” Really? I mean, I love dogs, but we can’t have a humane society without recognizing the humanity of people first. Fittingly, construction workers responded to Kleinman’s crass with a candlelight vigil outside his residence.

Kleinman’s Republican voting history and the policies of our state’s GOP leaders are more proof that their concept of being “pro-life” only extends to the unborn. They miss no opportunity to tout the number of jobs created, but fail to do their own jobs when it comes to addressing the effects their own policies have on real working people.

Texas has lead the nation in on the job deaths in 7 of the last 10 years and it is the only state that does not require employers to provide Workers’ Compensation. In its series “Hurting for Work” the Texas Tribune reported that, “more than 500,000 people have no occupational benefits when they get injured at work. That means they often rely on charities or taxpayers to pay for their care.” In other words, we fall far short on both safety and safety nets.

Austin, the only Texas city with such a policy, requires a 10 minute rest and water break at least once every 3 1/2 hours. The Dallas City Council missed an opportunity to pass a similar ordinance last year, but there is time for them to act on this simple live saving measure.

Advocates hope to get the proposal on the Council agenda for discussion and passage as soon as possible. Dallas City Council has 15 members and so far several have announced public support including: Sandy Grayson, Mark Clayton, Scott Griggs, Adam Medrano, Monica Alonzo, and Philip Kingston.

Mayor Mike Rawlings has not publicly committed his vote but told WDP last year that, “You know of companies that don’t allow this, and I would like to know personally which companies those are, and I am going to go down there and figure this out. That’s reprehensible, [that]there are people building our city not allowing this to take place.”

It is believed that council members Erik Wilson, Casey Thomas, and Jennifer Staubach Gates are on the fence. If you would like to thank council members for their support or encourage those that are undecided to take up and pass the ordinance you can find their contact here.

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About Author

Joe Deshotel

Joe was born and raised in Beaumont, Tx, but live music and politics brought him to Austin. He has worked in and around government and elections for over a decade including for a member of US Congress, the Texas Legislature, the Mayor of Austin. He currently serves as Communications Director for the Travis County Democratic Party. He is most interested in transportation, energy and technology issues. He also likes Texas Hold'em and commuting on his electric skateboard. Follow me on Twitter at @joethepleb.

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