Texas congressman advocates for federal workplace heat standard with hunger, thirst strike

The new law is set to take effect on September 1

Congressman Greg Casar protested with a nine-hour hunger and thirst strike on the steps of the U.S. Capitol Tuesday against Texas House Bill 2127, calling for a federal workplace heat standard.

“It destroys local protections for workers. We’ve had workers die just in the last few weeks across the State of Texas because of heat exhaustion. The government should be standing on the side of workers and supporting them.” said Casar.

The new law, which takes effect on Sept. 1, will prevent cities like San Antonio from making or enforcing local laws across broad areas of state law, including finance, insurance, labor, or employment benefits.

That means Austin and Dallas city ordinances on mandatory water breaks and any hopes of similar rules in San Antonio will be limited when the law goes into effect.

This will affect many blue-collar workers in South Texas who work at triple-digit degrees.

One worker, Michael Velazquez, told KSAT he drinks close to 12 bottles of water a day working outside.

“Why would they try to stop them from drinking water when it’s something that we need to obviously live? We need water to stay hydrated. We need water to keep on going throughout our day. So it shouldn’t even be an argument,” said Velazquez.

Congressman Casar’s thirst strike was in an effort to call the Biden administration and the occupational safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to implement a federal heat standard.

“We could pass this if just five Republicans signed on because I think there’s overwhelming majority support from the Democrats, and we need to accelerate the federal rulemaking process so that if four or five Republicans aren’t willing to sign on that, we get the Biden administration to do it themselves,” said Casar.


About the Authors:

John Paul Barajas is a reporter at KSAT 12. Previously, he worked at KRGV 5 in the Rio Grande Valley. He has a degree from the University of Houston. In his free time, he likes to get a workout in, spend time on the water and check out good eats and drinks.

Gavin Nesbitt is a photojournalist and video editor who joined KSAT in September 2021. He has traveled across the great state of Texas to film, conduct interviews and edit many major news stories, including the White Settlement church shooting, Hurricane Hanna, 2020 presidential campaigns, Texas border coverage and the Spurs.