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Jan
2015
16

Legion of Pro-Worker Bills Introduced in…Texas.

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The Texas legislature began its 2015 session with Democrats introducing pro-worker bills.  Among them are various attempts to raise the minimum wage, which remains at the federal level of $7.25 an hour. 

One bill, from Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, would raise the wage to $10.10 an hour, while another bill from Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon would take an incremental approach starting at $8.75 in 2016 before moving to $10.10 in 2017 and, finally, matching the consumer price index each following year.  The McClendon bill would also allow municipalities to raise wages on their own accord.

The Austin Chronicle previewed some of the other pro-worker bills being introduced this session:

Workers will likely cheer SB 151-155, a quintet of bills filed by Sen. José Rodríguez, D-El Paso, that would strengthen labor protections. SB 151, jointly filed with Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, would prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who complain to the Texas Workforce Commission. SB 152 defines what “bad faith” means in the context of penalties assessed by TWC, while SB 153 would expand the length of time an employee has to file an unpaid wage claim with TWC from 180 days to two years. SB 154 would mandate rest breaks for employees of government contractors (similar to Austin’s ordinance). Finally, SB 155 would require contractors and subcontractors to carry workers’ comp.

Achieving bipartisan workers’ rights victories in the conservative-leaning legislature may be difficult, but one bill concerning the misclassification of workers as independent contractors could gain traction as the issue has enjoyed bipartisan attention in the past year.

According to Texas Building and Construction Trades Council president Michael Cunningham, the chief concerns among construction unions include mandatory workers compensation on private construction projects, and mandatory OSHA 10 and rest breaks on public projects.

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