Dallas Construction Workers Want the City to Make Working Construction in Dallas Suck Less

Categories: City Hall

ConstructionWorker.png
Bill Jacobus
DFW construction workers are often denied water or rest breaks during the summer months.
He's still in his 20s, but Amarildo Gonzalez has worked construction in the Dallas area for several years now, traveling the metro area repairing foundations and doing other work. He's worked through rain and ice storms, but the brutal Texas summers are by far the worst -- especially with Texas' notoriously lousy workers' rights regulations. That's why he and his fellow construction workers are lobbying Dallas City Hall for increased worker protections, hoping to duplicate the success of similar lobbying efforts in Austin.

"The hardest thing about working in the construction industry is working in the heat," he says. "The worst thing is that they don't give you permission to drink water and you can get dehydrated and suffer heat exhaustion."

He says his managers often had little pity when Gonzalez and his coworkers would request water breaks.

"They would tell me, 'Are you here to work, or are you here to drink water? If you're not here to work, you can go home,'" says Gonzalez. Recently, a fellow worker suffered heat stroke on the job after he was denied a water break, he says. Gonzalez and his coworkers were left to administer emergency first aid until help could arrive.

Juan Cardoza-Oquendo, the Dallas Policy Advocate for the Workers Defense Project, says that around 1 out of 3 construction workers in the City of Dallas have no rest or water breaks outside of lunch. That's an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 workers who are not working under safe conditions.

"Often workers have had employers like Amarildo's who denied rest breaks outright in an aggressive way, or they simply didn't prioritize it," says Cardoza-Oquendo. A University of Texas study also indicates that 2 out of 3 contractors do not provide water at construction sites, and 1 out of 10 Texas construction workers have seen a coworker pass out from heat exhaustion. More construction workers are killed in Texas than in any other state.

No water or rest breaks can have dangerous consequences on the job. "It puts them at risk for heat related illnesses," says Cardoza-Oquendo. "It puts them at risk of injury, and of committing accidents on the job." And Gonzalez confirms that he often works with machinery on construction sites. "During the hot summer months, you lose focus," he says. Gonzalez describes how he and his coworkers also suffer from anxiety and depression after spending countless hours in the heat.

The Workers Defense Project is lobbying the Dallas City Council for better working conditions, including mandatory water and rest breaks, bilingual workers' rights information availability, and hefty penalties for employers that violate these standards. In the bubble of City Hall, members were not aware that these regulations were not already in effect.

"The general sentiment is that this makes sense," says Cardoza-Oquendo. "A lot of council members have expressed surprise that there are construction workers that don't already receive water breaks to sit in the shade. So this is about the city setting standards for how construction work should be done."

The City of Austin passed similar legislation for construction workers in 2010, in part due to the efforts by the WDP. While most were in favor of the regulations, some industry groups voiced opposition. "Some of the argument was it was burdensome on contractors to require breaks," Cardoza-Oquendo says. "But our response was that this used to be a common practice in the industry. The situation has gotten so that you have a sizable portion of contractors not giving their workers rest breaks. So unless the city mandates that rest breaks are required, it's not going to happen."

The WDP is also lobbying Dallas to post workers' rights information in both English and Spanish on construction sites. "We would like for them to be in Spanish because a large part of the workforce is Spanish-speaking," says Cardoza-Oquendo.

"The ordinance would only be as strong as long as workers can report violations. So it's really important, but at the same time it's a really simple measure that the city can take." The signs would help workers like Gonzalez, who says he didn't know about his right to report unsafe conditions before a friend passed along information.

"It's time for the city to step up to the plate to make sure that the men and women working to build the city have that basic protection," Cardoza-Oquendo says. "It needs to be a standard. Right now it's up to employers whether they give breaks. But it shouldn't be an option. It should be a right."

My Voice Nation Help
50 comments
SAFETY.OSHA.ASP
SAFETY.OSHA.ASP

I work in construction as a safety engineer and these guys don't want to drink water! I really hope this wasn't a paid article for Bill Jacobus bc its smut, trash, utterly incorrect and  its almost immoral to write this kind of nonsense!


I buy my guys water jugs every week do you know what they do with them? Leave them in ditches, put their tools in them, use them to sit on, they don't clean them, we even provide ice, do they use it? NO because the guys that do put coke or monster in them... They wonder why they are passing out its because they go out and drink at night and come to work with a monster in their hand. Watch them at lunch are they drinking water no, they drink pop or energy drinks after countless discussion about the dehydrating effects! 


"We would like for them to be in Spanish because a large part of the workforce is Spanish-speaking," says Cardoza-Oquendo.

    This is THE USA we speak english!! If we went to mexico would we expect them to post everything in english? HELL NO. 


If this writer did his home work at all he would know OSHA you know the GOVERNMENT" who this guys is a huge supporter in judging from his writings" has laws that protect these workers in fact. Bill you write me back and lets sit down with the local OSHA Diana Petterson, and lets see her slap you in the face for insulting her job with your ignorant dribble! 

rogjohns64
rogjohns64

Why is Amerildo working in Texas if he doesn't like the heat.


He can go to New York or Detroit where not only is it not as hot, but the Unionized workforce gets all the water breaks they desire.


It could be because there's no work up there due to it costs more to build stuff if the workers are getting paid to drink water.


BTW.... this story is fabricated bullshit. Make a point to look around at every construction site you see in Dallas and see if you can find one that doesn't have a yellow water keg onsite that anyone can access when they want.


I've worked on construction sites for over 30 years and I dont recall ever being on one without water. If they didn't I would either bring my own or find another employer.


I dont think any employers have a problem with a worker walking over to the water jug and getting a drink, and promptly getting back to work. How long does it take to get a drink of water?


What we dont want is for all workers to stop working and hang out in the shade sipping water and bullshitting for 15 minutes. 



G_David
G_David

Hell, even football coaches have pulled their heads out their asses and give water breaks.  Funny how that happens when people start dying.

pak152
pak152

Workers Defense Project?? mmm??? what has the DO left out of the story? oh yeah seems the WDP is associated with various unions. check out their leadership council

"The Leadership Council is a dedicated group of individuals, working to increase the impact of Workers Defense Project. Some of the best and brightest minds in labor unions, community organizing, and civic engagement are helping WDP acheive fair and dignified jobs for Texas workers."
http://www.workersdefense.org/about-us/leadership-council/

would have been nice if that information had been included. the story reads like a press release for the WDP

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

I dont trust these figures.  Many bring their own water, but being that this is a big city, there's plumbing most everywhere

TheDude89
TheDude89

Lol they should find better companies to wk for ...any manual labor job I worked in the heat, the company provided cases of water for free and encouraged us to drink as much water as the guys sweating felt necessary .... What company construction CEO's would want that kinda liability on their employees? Water is much more important than a hard hat on a hot day and believe me, no hard hat is usually an immediate write-up... Although site foremans/crew leads can be pricks and try to make you feel inferior, you can always go above him...most construction managers will put an end to that very quickly. Seen it firsthand......

Wright construction, Humphrey and associates, Xcell inc are few of many great companies that pay very well with great benefits and don't discriminate on anyone(felons included & definitely provide water lol) ..also they usually have openings and also have programs that pay for your schooling for certifications for the trade. In my opinion all it takes is more resourcefulness and less "gimme gimme"... And no matter what company you work for, DON'T BE STUPID!! DRINK WATER!! F*** YOUR LEAD!! HE'S NOT THE ONE THAT'S RISKING A HEAT STROKE!!...and he definitely can't fire you for drinking water .....and one more thing; why do you need a break for water? I worked with a bottle in my bolt bags every single day regardless if it was or wasn't being provided by the company(FYI: a case of water is $3 tops at walmart) ..It takes 15 sec. to take a few swigs of water and get back to work..Hard work is hard work. Use your head and you'll be amazed at the results you get..easy peasy!!...

pak152
pak152

interesting. 40 years ago I worked construction during the summers in Dallas. we were encouraged to take water as often as possible. One day ice had not been delivered to the office and our foreman said if it wasn't delivered by 8 am we could head home with full pay for the day.

OxbowIncident
OxbowIncident

The attitude that employers have towards their workers in Texas is abysmal. It's led me from being a Republican towards being a moderate. This ability to have a water break is only a scratch on the surface of the problems in Texas. Look what happens when a worker gets injured, and finds themselves in adversarial situation completely outgunned and uninformed:  http://apps.texastribune.org/hurting-for-work/

ryan762
ryan762

If there were supposed to be water breaks, the free market would provide them.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

Another benefit of illegal immigration to this country.


Seriously though, it would be better to contact the Department of Labor and OSHA rather than the City of Dallas.


An employer is required under federal law to provide restrooms, water and breaks for non - exempt employees.

wcvemail
wcvemail

But yeah, if an employer isn't providing water, it's up to the employee to take care of himself. If that includes finding another employer, so be it, until those two of three contractors finally start providing humane breaks. Foremen have apparently forgotten that you get better productivity out of laborers (and livestock) if you're humane.

wcvemail
wcvemail

First! and first to snark that if Dallas employers just wait a couple of years, they'll have all the construction workers they can burn through, after the first wave of new-immigrant dropouts from DISD. There, I think I covered that adequately.

bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

@pak152 "And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded."

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@pak152

It depends on how closely you  look at the documents provided for the I-9 or if the company is claiming "independent contractor" status for the workers.

Many of the large companies that are being referenced are probably doing criminal background checks, credit checks and other verifications prior to hiring.

Chances are many of the abusive conditions being related here are probably being done on workers where the eagle is facing the wrong way on the SS card.

James080
James080

@pak152 

Same here. When I worked construction from 16 through college, water was available and you we were encouraged to stop work and drink as often as necessary. When I managed commercial construction projects, we provided ice water in several locations and encouraged water breaks. 


Something doesn't ring true about this story. An employer denying water to an employee is inviting a worker's compensation claim for heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Multiple WC claims leads to higher insurance rates and higher rate modifiers, making the contractor less competitive.

dingo
dingo

@ryan762 

Group water breaks are for kindergartners.

No-one is going to say anything when an employee walks over to the 10 gallon Gott cooler and drinks as needed to stay fully hydrated.


I have rarely seen a construction site without potable water of some sort.

JFPO
JFPO

These lazy employees just need to bring their boot straps with them and pray to St. Ayn.

JFPO
JFPO

You're actually trying to blame the employees for this. Nicely done. Any good church going conservative knows to blame the little guy first, especially if he's brown.

pak152
pak152

@bmarvel bill bill bill you miss the point once again. The DO left out key information about the group that is doing the protesting. Shouldn't readers be made aware of the information I provided about the WDP?
no one disagrees that people should be provided water, but from the other comments it appears that the story isn't presenting both sides which is why I made the comment about it reading like a press release.

I've worked construction and we were never denied water breaks. as others noted the better avenue for a complaint is the US Dept of Labor and probably OSHA.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@pak152 @TheRuddSki 

Li'l Ricky did say publicly that she must resign or else he will veto the funding for the Public Integrity Unit.  She didn't and he did.

If he had just kept his pie hole shut and vetoed the Public Integrity Unit funding everything would have been fine.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@pak152

...even the Austin Police called for her resignation...

For what, a bad back? Poor woman. Looks like official oppression to me, not to mention abuse of the elderly.

I wonder what this gambit is going to cost Texas taxpayers.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@dingo

The corrupt Travis County machine, again.

You can always tell who democrats are afraid of.

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

@James080 @pak152 as a landscaper, I certainly don't want my workers getting overheated.  I all but insist they put salt into their gatorade, and though they'd like water all bottled and cold, often enough we have to resort to using the tap.  It makes little sense to me. 


That said, it seems reasonable to require firms/crews of a certain size to have some basic requisites, water, potties and the like.  Though, much of that is already mandated.  Wow, we should all be happy!  Non-existent problem already solved!!!

pak152
pak152

@James080 had an incident one time where I wasn't feel real well, the foreman asked what was wrong, told him I didn't feel well, he told me to go sit down in the shade until I felt better and to drink plenty of water. like you something doesn't sound right
company also issued hard hats and made sure we had steel-toed boots to wear

wcvemail
wcvemail

@JFPO

Not at all. Just as I'm not at all a good (or other) church-going conservative. But it IS true that you're a suppository.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@pak152 @bmarvel If someone needed it pointed out that the WDP is union sponsored and organized, then pointing it out would be useless anyway.  Only someone with no idea what unions are and what they do wouldn't be able to figure it out.

bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

@pak152 @bmarvel No, pak. You miss the point.

Do you imagine that Jesus Christ referred the thirsty to the U.S. Department of Labor and the hungry to the Department of agriculture and the homeless to HUD and refugees to Immigration and Naturalization? Does everything forf you devolve down to a matter of politics, and politics of a particularly nasty and partisan kind?

But of course, of course, you're right. I must be crazy nattering on about what would Jesus do. That's the furthest thing from anyone's mind here.

Chattering_Monkey
Chattering_Monkey

@ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul @pak152 @TheRuddSki she lost her public integrity with that video.  She shouldnt run a public integrity unit either, then again, neither should lil Ricky.  Fuck them both.  I do love the news throwing out there that he could spend 100 yrs in prison for this. lolololol, If that's worth 100 hundred years, ol JWP ought to be executed then

pak152
pak152

@RTGolden1 the vast majority of this country are low information folks who believe everything that the press publishes with out questioning the story. so it is up to the DO to give the full story

pak152
pak152

@bmarvel
"Does everything forf you devolve down to a matter of politics, and politics of a particularly nasty and partisan kind?" no, but then i'm the one who has been accused of being a shill. I've tried to keep my posts to you and others based upon objective information. and not climbed down into the sewer and call people names or worse.

as for Jesus I don't disagree with  you that people should be treated well. as others have pointed out businesses
my point which you've ignored is that the DO has not given us full information, especially information about the WDP


We are a nation of laws, There are already places of recourse for the workers. The DO article makes the WDP to be an altruistic group, but I doubt that they have an ulterior motive and I don't think it is for the betterment of working conditions.


time for bed. I have to get up early

bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

@pak152 @bmarvel I've just got to wonder, pak, what sort of employers would work their employes without a break and without water in Texas in summer? And what sort of commenters would bury that question under political and legaiistic quibbles about whether this or that group is affiliated with this or that union. So what??

But we are a nation of laws. as you point out, so I presume you would favor turning  this over to the Department of Labor and OSHA for stricter regulation and more rigid enforcement of the construction  industry.  



pak152
pak152

@bmarvel from the opening of the blog "He's still in his 20s, but Amarildo Gonzalez has worked construction in the Dallas area for several years now, traveling the metro area repairing foundations and doing other work."

so what companies did he work for? did the DO think to ask? were they small contractors. I've seen plenty of trucks driving around town doing foundation repairs. what other work has he done? 


pak152
pak152

@bmarvel 

'I've just got to wonder, pak, what sort of employers would work their employes without a break and without water in Texas in summer?" good question bill we don't know from the story because we are presented with information from a study that the DO supposedly links to but instead takes us to the KDFW website. others like myself have presented anecdotal evidence that companies do provide water and breaks to their employees.


the quibbling you refer to is not in my opinion such because the DO has accepted what was presented by the group without question. shouldn't a journalist be skeptical?

yes have the DOL and OSHA investigate I don't think there is a need for stricter regulations, just  enforce what is already on the book.a simple google search turned up this from OSHA
https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/

http://www.dol.gov/opa/media/press/osha/OSHA20140929.htm

Did the DO bother to contact any of the construction companies in the area or the Association of General Contractors? http://www.agc.org/ or even the local chapter of the AGC? http://www.agcdallas.com/ to get their side of the story. Did they visit any worksites? or did they just sit in an air conditioned office?


pak

bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

@pak152 @bmarvel Would that make any less thirsty, pak, any less susceptible to heat exhaustion?

bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

@pak152 @bmarvel "...presented anecdotal evidence that companies do provide water and breaks to their employees."

Some companies, pak. Some, not. Are we content with the fact that some companies treat their employees decently, some not. That some companies do not is one reason there are labor unions.

When I was a kid summer jobs in construction were a common way for kids to earn money for college. Privileged middle class kids could look forward to other lives. Itinerant workers, often minority, were another matter.

dingo
dingo

@bmarvel @pak152 

One can only marvel at bmarvel's ignorance of the fact that a hydrated worker is not only a cooler worker but a more productive worker (higher water content in the bloodstream allows for more efficient delivery of nutrients and oxygen to the capillaries) 

http://amazing2me.com/AboutWater.html

and a less litigious worker.

http://www.safetynewsalert.com/illegal-immigrant-injured-at-work-can-he-get-workers-comp/


I would guess that ninety-nine percent of employers are aware of these business critical facts.

pak152
pak152

@bmarvel bill you're avoiding the issue. The DO has only given one side of the story. did Amarildo work for a small foundation company? what other jobs.

and no it wouldn't make anyone less thirsty or subject o heat exhaustion. but we don't have the full story. 

are you saying you want only one side of the story? because that is what we are getting right now from the DO.

no one is saying that workers shouldn't have access to water and breaks, but this story is so one-sided I doubt if even one of your former employers would have let it be published. or would they?

pak152
pak152

@bmarvel "When I was a kid summer jobs in construction were a common way for kids to earn money for college. Privileged middle class kids could look forward to other lives." yup I did the same thing and I suspect you would claim i'm from that "privileged middle class" lots of my classmates did construction work to earn money for college and more. and if not construction they set up their own lawn service/landscaping companies, or did house painting among other summer jobs

 "Are we content with the fact that some companies treat their employees decently, some not."

silly question of course not, but now you are coming around to my point about the article. what size company did Amarildo work for? the article basically accuses all construction companies of not providing water and breaks for their employees. wouldn't you like more information? or are you satisfied with the one-sided point of view?


'That some companies do not is one reason there are labor unions."

labor unions in the private sector have been seeing a decline in their membership roles over the last 20 years. so they target industries and present only half the story. Unions run on money and they want more members so they can get money.  They really aren't concerned about their members, they just want the money.

bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

@dingo @bmarvel @pak152 "One can only marvel at bmarvel's ignorance of the fact that a hydrated worker is not only a cooler worker..."

I'd be fascinated to know, dingo, how you came to this interpretation of my comments.

bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

@pak152 @bmarvel Here's why we're talking past each other, pak. You're focused on the DO story and what it excludes. I'm focused on the plight of a worker denied water and rest breaks.

You think the heart of the problem here is that DO failed to report a connection between the story and union activists. That's a journalist's problem. Here, I'm not functioning as a journalist. I'm functioning as a human being, concerned with the treatment of the worker. Regardless of the involvement of union activists, regardless of your construction experience age age 20. 

We could analyse this further and at greater depth, but that's what it comes down to.   

Chattering_Monkey
Chattering_Monkey

@pak152 @bmarvel see bill not only wages age wars on the young, he does class warfare too, its as if the world revolves around Bill and what he believes.  There shall be no other way.  Hey bill, lots of middle class kids do all kinds of hard work, even the ones who have parents who care about them.  See, my parents were 'middle class' but I worked as a soccer referee and at a mcdonalds and mowed yards when had time. I paid for my own things I wanted, and some of what I needed for sports, with my parents pitching in because they knew I valued the things worked for.  But sure, the privileged middle class wouldnt know a thing about that right

pak152
pak152

@bmarvel @pak152 and bill i'm also concerned about the worker who isn't getting the water break no matter what you assume about me. you've bought into the WDP's side of the story hook, line and sinker which tarbrushes all repeat all companies as denying their workers water and breaks. If you are truly concerned about the workers and I believe you are then you too would be asking the DO to find out the other side of the story.

The WDP is using classic union organizing techniques of getting sympathy for the people they are "helping"
I would think you would want the full story rather then seeing good companies who are doing the right thing being dragged down in the sewer.

so we agree that workers need wate and breaks. what we don't agree on is that you believe (and correct me if i'm wrong) that all companies are denying them water and breaks, while I say the vast majority are and that it is a minority that isn't. We have laws and regulations that all ready cover this, we don't need a city ordinance.

bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

@pak152 @bmarvel I'm not analysing this as a "story" at all, pak. 

I AM analysing the responses to it, however. And I note, pak, that you always take up for corporate big business America. No questions asked. I guess that's one of the things we mean when we speak of "conservatives."

My guess is that most large corporations do make sure their workers are watered and rested. It's in their self-interest. I am also guessing that a few companies, especially small ones that fly under the radar, don't give a fig about their workers , especially when those workers are not in a position to complain -- e.g., not members of a big, powerful union. But unions, here, are not the issue for me. Treatment of workers is.  And when I hear folks say, well,when I was a lad working construction to earn money for college, I was never mistreated, or complaining that DO didn't collect statements from all the big companies that don't mistreat their workers, or that complaints of mistreatment are part of a union agenda -- well!! No, duh!! -- I just got to wonder where are the heads of these folks AT, for heaven's sakes?

But I'm guessing that once again our little dispute has worn out its welcome, here. So I'll let you have the last word.

pak152
pak152

@bmarvel " I note, pak, that you always take up for corporate big business America. No questions asked." why yes I do bill especially when they are tarbrushed and accused of actions not in evidence. I suspect that you are suspicious of all corporations. I am also suspicious of corporations, but they are not like hollywood and the press portray them to be. why do tv shows like Law and Order always show corporations as being corrupt?

" I was never mistreated, or complaining that DO didn't collect statements from all the big companies that don't mistreat their workers, or that complaints of mistreatment are part of a union agenda -- well!! No, duh!! -- I just got to wonder where are the heads of these folks AT, for heaven's sakes?"

still you miss the point. you accept unequivocally that what the WDP is presenting is the truth. I suspect that you've always been suspicious of businesses. no problem with that, but to dismiss out of hand what others say is ridiculous. all i'm saying is that if you are going to present one side of the story without presenting the other side isn't that a bit dishonest? aren't you (not you specifically) then being (to use your term) a shill? as i've said before as well as others we're in favor of the treating employees well, but the WDP is tarbrushing all businesses and the DO is being their water carrier. 

"our little dispute" ? really I look upon it as a conversation between to passionate individuals trying to learn what the other side has to say. ill close with yes I'll support the businesses when they are unfairly accused of something, i'm in favor of treating all employees fairly and equitably, i'm also in favor of the media presenting both sides of the story and not just rewrite a press release. sleep well i'm off to DC in the am. fortunately my political vaccinatins are up to date.

pak

Now Trending

Dallas Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

General

Loading...