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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott Signs Bill Eliminating Mandated Water Breaks For Construction Workers

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed a law that eliminates local rules mandating water breaks for construction workers. The legislation comes amid one of the worst heat waves in the state’s history.

Supporters of House Bill 2127 said that it would block local ordinances across the state that hurt businesses. It will repeal the 2010 Austin and 2015 Dallas rulings that gave construction workers ten-minute breaks every four hours so that they could drink water and seek protection from the sun. The law also prevents other cities from enacting similar rules in the future.

More workers die from high temperatures in Texas than in any other state. The problem particularly affects Latinos, as they represent six out of every 10 construction workers. Opponents of the law argue that it strips workers of basic human rights and that it will make it more difficult for cities to protect tenants facing eviction or to compact predatory lending and excessive noise.

Abbott signed the bill as the National Weather Service forecasted highs over 100 degrees in several Texas cities in the coming week. Heat waves are often more dangerous than other extreme weather events like tornadoes or floods; last year, there were 279 heat-related deaths in Texas, the most reported since 1999.

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Union workers expect these death rates to surge with mandated water breaks being eliminated.

“Construction is a deadly industry. Whatever the minimum protection is, it can save a life. We are talking about a human right,” said deputy director of policy and politics at the Texas AFL-CIO Ana Gonzalez in a statement. “We will see more deaths, especially in Texas’ high temperatures.”

The bill is expected to take effect on September 1.

Ava Lombardi

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