It's hard to understand how the city of Dallas' mandating 10 minute rest breaks every four hours for construction workers could be controversial. As City Council member Dwaine Caraway put it in December, all the workers are asking for is a break.
Nevertheless, Jerry Allen, Rick Callahan and especially Lee Kleinman have fought the proposed break ordinance tooth and nail, dragging it through almost four months of arguing and committee hearings.
Monday, Kleinmann was especially feisty, decrying union support for the ordinance as a potential undermining of Texas right to work laws. If workers were capable of travelling thousands of miles to get to Dallas, Kleinman said, they could travel across town to get a new job if they weren't given adequate rest by their current employer.
Callahan called the legislation unnecessary and repetitive. When he worked as a manual laborer, he said, he and his fellow workers carried their water with them. When they needed to go to the bathroom, they went right then, no need for a mandated break. Even if workers did need rest break protections, he said, that should be covered by the federal or state government, not the city.
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Caraway again Monday bucked Kleinman and company and talked about why the ordinance was needed.
"There's a whip we've got for you, if you take a break," he said, describing the policies of his ancestors' work supervisors. "My grandmother tasted the whip."
The ordinance is set for a full council vote later this month. Fines for construction sites in violation of the break rules would range from $100 to $500.