June 28, 2024

Rep. Watson Coleman Introduces Worker Rights and Support Act

Today, Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12) introduced the Worker Rights and Support Act which would require employees be offered a 30-minute meal break for each six hour work period, given a 10-minute break for every four hours worked to use the restroom, and provided 20-minute breaks for medical conditions. 

Restroom and medical breaks are paid, but meal breaks are not, unless the employee is not fully relieved of their duty during the period of the meal break, in which case they are paid time-and-a-half.

“Every worker deserves to be treated with dignity,” said Rep. Watson Coleman. “This bill guarantees employers respect the basic human rights of their employees, providing short breaks after hours of work. No person should be expected to work for hours on end without rest — it’s indecent, it’s inhumane, and with my bill, it will be illegal. I strongly encourage Congress to stand on the side of working families and pass this legislation.”

“Dignity on the job should not be a luxury for the lucky few. Being able to take reasonable breaks for a meal, to use the bathroom, or to deal with medical needs should be a part of every job,” said Congressman Chris Deluzio. “The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 is a landmark labor bill that has protected so many workers for decades. Now, it’s time to pass Congresswoman Watson Coleman’s bill to update the law, so that workers across the country cannot be forced to work for hours on end without reasonable breaks.”

“All workers deserve a safe and fair workplace and basic protections like reasonable breaks,” said Congresswoman Debbie Dingell. “I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this bill that will ensure workers aren’t penalized for taking necessary breaks throughout the workday and will require all breaks taken under its framework count toward time worked. I will continue to fight to ensure workers feel safe and supported because when our workers are better off our country is stronger.” 

"Many workers across the country work under absolutely awful conditions, including oppressive quotas and relentless bosses, who don't even allow employees enough time to use the bathroom on the job. This is outrageous and has no place in our society. CWA strongly supports the Worker Rights and Support Act, which would guarantee all workers a basic level of decency by ensuring that no employer can dock their pay for needing to use the bathroom or to have a moment's rest at some point during the workday. We thank Congresswoman Watson Coleman for her leadership in introducing the bill and urge Congress to pass it as soon as possible," said Dan Mauer, Director of Government Affairs for the Communications Workers of America (CWA).

"We thank Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman for introducing the 'Worker Rights and Support Act'. While the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 protects the rights of millions of workers, it does not mandate employers to provide breaks for rest, meals, restroom use, or medical emergencies. Every worker, regardless of their industry or job, deserves scheduled breaks," said United Mine Workers of America President Cecil E. Roberts. "The UMWA is a diverse union that includes coal miners, manufacturing workers, clean coal technicians, correctional officers, and health care workers, all of whom work in some of the most dangerous conditions in the nation. Scheduled breaks are essential for all workers. We strongly support this legislation and urge Congress to pass it."

“Mail handler work is laborious work. Members of the National Postal Mail Handlers Union understand the necessity of breaks for meals, rest, and medical reasons throughout shifts not only for our health and well-being, but also for the productivity of our work. We encourage Congress to expand the Fair Labor Standards Act to provide these necessities to those in the private sector,” said National Postal Mail Handlers Union National President Paul Hogrogian.

“The Worker Rights and Support Act is common sense legislation that reminds employers that their workers are human beings, and as such, deserve fundamental human rights like meal breaks, restroom breaks, time to get help for an injury or illness on the job, and not be denied pay to do so.  Employers have demanded more and more out of their workforces, and some have even punished their employees for taking short breaks or eating lunch. That must stop. NFFE thanks Congresswoman Watson Coleman for her leadership on this legislation to return a basic quality of life to workers on the job,” said Randy Erwin, National President, NFFE-IAM. 

The bill would not override any existing collective bargaining agreements, or preempt any state laws granting further protections for employees.

The bill text can be found here.

The Worker Rights and Support Act is cosponsored by Representatives Tlaib (MI-12), Norton (DC-00), Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), Jackson (IL-01), Ramirez (IL-03), Grijalva (AZ-07), Johnson (GA-04), Jackson Lee (TX-18), Deluzio (PA-17), Wild (PA-07), Thanedar (MI-13), Dingell (MI-06), Thompson (MS-02), Omar (MN-05), Williams (GA-05), Wilson (FL-24), Tonko (NY-20), Bowman (NY-16), Brown (OH-11), Lee (PA-12), Velázquez (NY-07), Adams (NC-12), Lynch (MA-08), Garcia (IL-04), Schakowsky (IL-09), Ross (NC-02), Gomez (CA-34), Ivey (MD-04), Bush (MO-01), Tokuda (HI-02), and Stevens (MI-11).

The bill is endorsed by National Education Association (NEA); National Employment Law Project; Transport Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO (TWU); Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO (CWA); Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO (AFA); National Jobs for All Network; Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, AFL-CIO (BRS); International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT); United Mine Workers of America (UMWA); International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE); American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO (AFT); National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE); National Postal Mail Handlers Union (NPMHU); Eastern Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters; UNITE HERE; Bakery Confectionery Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM); American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO); and United Steelworkers (USW).