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Greg Abbott

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Texas governor signs bill rescinding water breaks as deadly heat grips state

Amid a dangerous heatwave that has brought blistering temperatures across Texas, the state’s governor signed a law this week eliminating local rules requiring water breaks for workers. The measure, which will take effect later this year, will nullify ordinances enacted by Austin and Dallas that mandate 10-minute breaks for construction workers every four hours. It also prevents any other local governments from passing similar worker protections. Just days after Greg Abbott, the governor, ratified the law, officials said a 35-year-old utility lineman working to restore power in Marshall, Texas, died after experiencing symptoms of heat illness. The heat index – which takes into account both the temperature and humidity – was 100F while he was working. It was an omen of what could come after HB 2127 takes effect in September, wrote the Texas branch of the AFL-CIO union, referring to the far-reaching law that not only curbs cities’ right to enact worker protections, but a number of labor, agriculture, natural resources and finance measures. “Banning required rest breaks for construction workers in the Texas heat is deadly.” The law’s passage has enraged workers’ advocates, who warn that it will result in even more heat-related deaths and illnesses in a state that already tallies the highest number of worker deaths due to high temperatures. “In the midst of a record-setting heatwave, I could not think of a worse time for this governor or any elected official who has any, any kind of compassion, to do this,” said David Cruz, the communications director for League of United Latin American Citizens National (Lulac), a Latino civil rights group. “This administration is incrementally trying to move us backwards into a dark time in this nation. When plantation owners and agrarian mentalities prevailed.” Six out of every 10 construction workers in Texas are Latino, and labor advocates say that the law will hurt Latino and Black communities that are already disproportionately affected by extreme heat. Hispanic workers made up a third of all worker heat deaths since 2010, according to an NPR/Columbia study. Local protections are crucial, advocates say, because the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Osha) does not have a national heat protection standard. Still, the Republican lawmakers pushing the new law have said it eliminates a “hodgepodge of onerous and burdensome regulations” that Texas businesses face. The effort aims to prevent cities and counties from enacting progressive policies that counter the state Republican supermajority’s aims. fb-messenger://share?link=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.theguardian.com%2Fus-news%2F2023%2Fjun%2F23%2Fgreg-abbott-texas-governor-bill-water-breaks-heatwave%3FCMP%3Dshare_btn_me&app_id=180444840287

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  • We Don't Have Time

    50 w

    Dear monicah mbesu Thank you for getting your climate love to level 2! We have reached out to Greg Abbott and requested a response. I will keep you updated on any progress! /Adam We Don't Have Time

    2
    • Tabitha Kimani

      50 w

      @Monica Mbesu, Is this a warning or a love review. The governor's acts are not towards making employees life better but worse.

      3
      • George Kariuki

        50 w

        Employers and policymakers should prioritize the well-being of workers, especially in extreme weather conditions.

        7
        • Joseph Githinji

          50 w

          @george_kariuki I agree with you in as much we need to foster growth this shouldn't be at the expense of workers.

          1
        • bonke reinhard

          50 w

          Good move government

          15
          • Joseph Githinji

            50 w

            Super move by the governor, this is going to save more people from effects of high temperatures.

            14
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