After a yearlong debate about the right way to handle it, the Dallas City Council this week passed a requirement for mandatory rest breaks for construction workers.
Under the new rules, which passed on a vote of 10 to 5, construction workers will be guaranteed 10 minutes of rest for every four hours worked. Construction workers and their advocates broke into applause in the city council chambers Wednesday morning after the vote. There was very little discussion of of the measure by council members in the moments before the vote.
“Workers Defense Project applauds Dallas City Council on adopting a rest break ordinance for Dallas construction workers,” said Brigid Hall, interim executive director of Workers Defense Project. “This is a victory for Dallas families, workers, and responsible businesses who, through this ordinance, can help make Dallas a leader in Texas for worker protections,” Hall said.
Opponents of the new rules, including Mayor Mike Rawlings, have argued that the regulation is outside the city’s authority to enforce. Rawlings and others also said there is insufficient data to show a widespread problem in the industry.
The Workers Defense Project, an Austin-based organization, said that the new rules would “protect 112,000 in the Dallas area.”
“This ordinance will also save Dallas taxpayers $19,400 for every heat-related hospitalization that can now be prevented under this ordinance,” the group said in a statement.
The father of a construction worker who died in July as a result of heat-related illness, praised the council for its vote. "We are thankful that the City of Dallas has provided construction workers a right to rest. This ordinance will give workers and their families the rest and protections they deserve,” said Gustavo Granillo, father of Roendy Granillo.
Members of the Granillo family sat in the audience with photos of their 25-year-old son and brother Roendy Granillo, who died from heat stroke in July while installing flooring on an unfinished house in Melissa. His sister Jasmine Granillo, 11, told the council she missed him and feared for her father and other brother who still work in construction.
Jasmine was especially close to Roendy Granillo. He taught her to love the Mavericks and music ranging from Coldplay to country, she said earlier in the week as she spoke to reporters in his former bedroom. After the vote, she said she could barely believe the several council meetings she had attended had ended with her brother’s death having an impact.
“Last time I was feeling hopeful, but now I just feel amazing,” she said. “It’s something good.”
The Morning News also said that even though Mayor Rawlings voted against the ordinance, he promised to personally follow up on any complaints made under the new requirement. He has asked construction workers to contact him directly about companies that are not in compliance.