September 1, 2023, is a day that will live in workers’ rights infamy. Texas House Bill 2127 will ban mandatory water breaks for all workers. Governor Greg Abbot has signed the bill, which critics have begun referring to as the “Death Star” bill, because the state legislature can act as a dominant Death Star over local governments (We hope you remember your Star Wars terminology!).
It is a sweeping patchwork of right-wing policies that will protect the fossil fuel industry and prevent any measures to slow or reverse climate change. The Texas Public Policy Foundation (a front group for the fossil fuel interests) helped write the bill, which will also prevent public pensions from considering social or environmental impacts when choosing investments, overturn bans on new gas hookups and fracking, and prevent local laws or regulations from being used to help the environment.
In perhaps the most odious move, they voted to remove mandatory 10-minute breaks for every 4 hours worked, laws previously in effect in both Dallas and Austin. For workers experiencing the frontline of climate change, these breaks can mean the difference between life and death. Between 2011 and 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 436 heat-related workplace deaths in Texas. These numbers are likely underestimated since some workers might have died after leaving the job site with heat stroke, in which case their death was not reported as a workplace death. In the heat of recent days in Texas, workers without water and regular breaks are almost literally being cooked to death.
This blatant attack on the working class is cruel and inhumane. The attacks on the environment are short-sighted and the epitome of forced stupidity driven by the greed and drives for profit built into capitalism. Making sure that the state has veto over local ordinances is quite beneficial to the right wing, since most large cities vote predominantly Democrat, while the state legislature is predominantly Republican. If government actually reflected the views of the population it governed, this bill would never have passed.