**FILE** Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons)
**FILE** Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons)

Texas is suffering from record-high temperatures, with heat indexes topping a staggering 120 degrees.

Forty million people are at risk from what scientists call a “heat dome,” and storm chasers call a “death ridge.” Texas already is the state that suffers the highest number of deaths from heat exposure,

And the National Weather Service warns that the “extreme heat and humidity will significantly increase the potential for heat-related illnesses, particularly for those working or participating in outdoor activities.” Officials warn Texans to stay cool and hydrated.

In response, the Republican Texas state legislature and Republican Gov. Greg Abbott passed and signed into law a bill that voids any city law that requires water breaks for employees.

You read that right. In the midst of a deadly heat wave, Republican officials passed a law to revoke city laws — such as one passed in Austin in 2010 and Dallas in 2015 — that require water breaks for workers. The law takes effect in September, but next summer, this will end up killing people.

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

The threadbare excuse for the law is that companies don’t want to deal with a confusing patchwork of local regulations. Of course, the governor could have removed that irritation by supporting a state law to mandate sensible water breaks rather than one banning them.

In reality, this legislation essentially treats workers as property — without human rights, even the right to life — to be used as their employers deem fit. The extreme expression of this, of course, was slavery, in which slaves literally were valued and sold as property. The 13th Amendment, passed after the Civil War, outlawed slavery — but it did not enshrine basic human rights or economic rights.

The majority of construction workers in Texas are Latinos, many undocumented, and relatively easy for employers to abuse and legislatures to oppress, as Blacks were under slavery. Linking a fake populism with appeals on conservative social issues like abortion, Republicans have been gaining ground among Latino voters — but apparently not enough to begin to respect their basic human right to survival.

In any case, this is less about race than about workers of all races. Under Donald Trump, Republicans have offered workers heated rhetoric about nativism, about crime, even about mythical Democratic pedophiles, using populist rhetoric as a cover for relentlessly anti-worker policies. Republican legislatures in Iowa and Ohio have weakened child labor laws, allowing children as young as 14 to be employed on evening shifts using caustic chemicals in meat coolers and industrial cleaners. Republican justices have rolled back the right to organize, and disemboweled the powers of existing unions. Republicans oppose raising the minimum wage, enforcing workplace safety, and seek to weaken unemployment support for those who are laid off.

Passing a law to ban local protection of water breaks in the midst of a record and deadly heat wave speaks for itself. It reminds me of the famous moment in the McCarthy hearings at the height of the ’50s Red Scare. Wisconsin Sen. Joe McCarthy, after feeding the Red Scare with repeated screeds about communists subverting the government, convened hearings on whether the U.S. Army was soft on communism. Frustrated by the Army’s defense attorney, Joseph N. Welch, McCarthy slurred a young associate in Welch’s firm as linked to communists. Flabbergasted, Welch responded: “Until this moment, senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?” That moment marked the effective end of McCarthy’s reign of terror.

Now in the wake of the cruel law passed by the Republican legislature and signed by its governor, surely it is time to ask each of them, “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?”

Founder and President, Rainbow PUSH Coalition, is one of America’s foremost civil rights, religious and political figures. Over the past forty years, he has played a pivotal role in virtually every movement...

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  1. Stopping the mandate for water breaks shouldn’t stop entities from allowing them. IF they have any decency at all. As usual, the media gets stuck on one aspect of a story when there are other asp ed cts to be considered. And doing away with diversity shouldn’t stop colleges etc from diversify on merit because it’s the right thing to do, the Christian thing to do.

    1. What planet do you live on? Because here on Earth, unscrupulous employers will revel in the suffering of their workers! As long as that dime goes ching ching in their pocketbook, they couldn’t care less about the health or well-being of their employ… I remember my first horrible REPUBLICAN boss. His cruelty and the look on his eyes when he growled at me for resting against a stool to try and reduce the pain in my feet after standing for a 12 hour shift . “Just remember little gal… I was looking for a worker when I found you and when you’re gone, I’ll be looking till I find the next sucker. ” You need to realize, Lady, this world ain’t all about sunshine and Sunday school!


  3. Do you see how stupid your leaders are!?! The people you elect endangering your loved one but at least your party in office…

  4. Concerning Texas move to overthrow municipal self-rule, know that The Home Rule Amendment had been working for Texas since 1912. So the excuse that now, local laws and state laws that differ is confusing, is bunk! We need to watch out for how autocratic thinking is eroding our democracy. Texas is one of the states that screams lowest about the right for state-rule. Now they want to deny local citizens the same rights!

  5. No big surprise when people that have everything and fear Lossing values money and power using it as a tools, no matter how it hards the people that have little or nothing as long as make money and stay in power

  6. Ghis story is full of disinformation and misleading statements. Anyone who trouble to read the actual legislation can quickly observe the true data. The Washington Informer is misinforming it’s readers. What is the agenda behind its twisting of the truth?

  7. This is crap, a man must see to his health and safety . Gov Abbott did not say a worker can’t have a drink of water . He just says breaks are not mandatory anymore . No one should be stupid enough to not drink .

    1. Yes that’s what he meant . Basically you can have water anytime of the day you’re working. Because it’s hot and it’s dangerous and water is here for you at all times. If people had to wait for water breaks right now they would be dying. Not a real nice way of treating other people just catching a word or two and making something up with. People don’t know how to deal with the truth anymore they can’t handle the truth they don’t want the truth they want to lie they want us to live under a lie .

  8. It’s not that hot humans aren’t smart enough to drink when they’re thirsty!! It’s that employers are no longer required to supply the water or allow the break. It’s the point people!! The Republicans are just showing one more instance of allowing corporate control over human rights. Very hypocritical from the party that supposedly stands for family values and the right to life.

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