Politics

U.S. Rep. Sylvia Garcia proposes legislation to grant adequate breaks for construction workers

If passed, the federal government would require employers to give a minimum of a 15 minute break every four hours. 

U.S. House Representative Sylvia Garcia (D-Houston) has proposed a bill that would require employers of construction workers to provide adequate breaks during shifts.

The bill comes in response to record breaking heat across the country.

"In our great state, we’ve had 53 people in Texas die, many of which are Latino," Garcia said in reference to a Texas Newsroom collaborative investigation.

"For us, and especially for me in my district, which is 77 percent, Latino, you know, we also have the highest number of construction workers of any district in the country. So obviously, a lot of the construction workers around the Houston area are Latinos. So this is something that is really of interest for the safety and health and well being of people in my district."

Garcia initially pitched this bill when she was a Texas state senator in 2017. She faced opposition to the Texas bill from builders groups, who said the bill wasn't necessary since the Occupational Safety and Health Administration already placed heavy federal oversight and penalties on employers.

This time around though, Garcia is now in Washington and hopeful the bill will pass through the U.S. Capitol.

“But I think the time has changed, and obviously it’s hotter today than it was — by in large due to climate change and other issues — than it was when I was in the state senate. So I think we might be able to get some traction,” Garcia said.

She also hopes that through passing this legislation, the general frame of mind of some construction workers would also improve.

"It just really baffles me that we would even have to file this bill, this is something that employers should already be doing," she said. "This is something that we should be doing for the health and safety of the workers. And just think about it that they would be so much more productive. If they got a rest break, they’d probably be better employees."

If passed, the federal government would require employers to give a minimum of a 15 minute break every four hours.

While Garcia has no plans on how oversight and regulation of that minimum will take place, she is hoping to hash those specifics out once the bill is assigned to a committee.

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