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Heat wave: “Water” threatens Texas workers

Heat wave: “Water” threatens Texas workers

Texas is set to pass a law that would challenge the right of construction workers in cities like Dallas or Austin, on the front lines of heat, to a break every four hours.

The law was signed into law in mid-June by Republican Greg Abbott, the governor of this southwestern state in the United States, when the temperature in some places reached 40 degrees Celsius. The heat wave that hit the south of the country killed 13 people.

The authors of this text, which is due to enter into force in September, presented legal arguments: this law, which does not directly mention the “interruption of water”, will only serve to return its jurisdiction to the state, while several cities have adopted the criteria on this subject, Which differ from state standards, which would create confusion for companies.

But according to its critics, it would be left unaffected by provisions mandating a “water break”, and “water break” for construction workers, allowing them to stop in the shade for ten minutes every four hours in order to rehydrate.

This law “prohibits cities and counties from adopting or implementing basic protective measures (…) while we live in extreme temperatures and workers in Texas have died from heat-related illnesses,” said rebel Ana Gonzalez, Texas US State Representative for the AFL-CIO. Federation of Trade Unions.

“It is inhumane and dangerous for the workers,” she told AFP.

She indicated that Texas is the US state with the highest number of heat victims among construction workers: 42 between 2011 and 2021, citing official figures.

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The “hydration break” has been implemented in Austin, D.C., since 2010, and since 2015 in Dallas, two cities led by Democratic mayors. San Antonio was preparing to adopt it, but this new law is preventing it, according to Ana Gonzalez.

The city of Houston, led by a Democrat, has already challenged the validity of the law in court.

If it passes, employers can still offer these breaks voluntarily, but nothing will force them to do so.