Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Vehicle safety affecting farm workers in California

Expand Messages
  • John Troidl
    Hello All, Interesting article in this morning s Sacramento Bee. John CHP buckling down on farm workers safety By Lesli A. Maxwell -- Bee Capitol Bureau
    Message 1 of 10 , Apr 1 7:04 AM
    View Source
    • 0 Attachment
      Hello All,

      Interesting article in this morning's Sacramento Bee.

      John


      CHP buckling down on farm workers' safety



      By Lesli A. Maxwell -- Bee Capitol Bureau
      Published 2:15 a.m. PST Monday, April 1, 2002

      It took 13 deaths on a foggy road in western Fresno County, but in less
      than three years, thousands of California farm workers have seen the risky
      trip to their jobs in the fields turn into a much safer journey.

      A whirlwind of reform legislation swept through the Legislature in the
      months after that August 1999 crash near Five Points and required for the
      first time that farm labor vans be outfitted with seat belts. All parties
      agree that the California Highway Patrol's aggressive public relations
      campaign and, more importantly, its heavy enforcement efforts have kept the
      death toll of farm workers riding in regulated vans in the San Joaquin
      Valley at zero since the Five Points collision.

      And beginning today, the homemade, sideways-facing wooden benches bolted to
      the floors of labor vans -- the last vestige of the shadowy and dangerous
      world of farm-worker transportation that was legal for decades in
      California -- will be outlawed and replaced by modern, forward-facing seats.

      The ban of the wooden benches is the final piece of reform law spawned by
      the high-profile crash.

      Policymakers and public safety officials learned from the devastation of
      the Five Points crash that installing seat belts wouldn't be enough to
      prevent a repeat of the grisly scene where 15 farm workers squeezed side by
      side on benches rocketed forward, crushing one another when the van struck
      a tractor-trailer rig. Only two workers survived.

      Migrant workers picking lettuce last week in a field in Huron, southwest of
      Fresno, attest to the turnaround.

      "The new laws are good because they are created to help save lives," said
      Alejandro Flores, 35, from Yuma, Ariz., who says he feels safer traveling
      to the fields in California than he does in other states where he works.

      Flores, who has worked the Huron lettuce harvest since he was 16, remembers
      season after season when fellow workers would be killed or seriously
      injured in van crashes.

      While farm-worker advocates say the arrival of the bench-ban deadline is
      good news, they insist that eradication of the crude seats can't be the
      final round in the fight to overhaul farm-worker transportation.

      They say enforcement is woefully lacking in other agricultural areas of the
      state -- the Sacramento, Imperial and Salinas valleys -- where there are no
      teams of CHP officers dedicated to cracking down on unsafe labor vans and
      drivers as there is in the San Joaquin Valley. Pending legislation would
      finance expansion of the CHP enforcement teams into other areas.

      The 10 CHP officers and one sergeant who patrol the Valley's highways and
      rural roads for violators will crack down on owners and drivers of farm
      labor vans still equipped with the rickety benches. Van owners had until
      midnight Sunday -- a deadline timed to fall on the 75th birthday of the
      late United Farm Workers founder Cesar Chavez -- to remove the benches and
      replace them with forward-facing seats.

      Vans found without factory-made forward-facing seats will not be certified
      by the CHP, and drivers and owners will face stiff penalties. CHP officers
      in the Valley say they expect to still see a fairly large number of vans
      with wooden benches after the deadline, even though drivers have known for
      a year and a half that they must replace them.

      Thursday, four days before the bench ban deadline, 19 farm workers suffered
      minor to moderate injuries after a van they were riding in collided with a
      car near Orange Cove, southeast of Fresno.

      The van had seat belts, was CHP-certified and outfitted with the benches.

      "We're still seeing quite a few of the bench seats," said CHP Lt. Ray
      Madrigal, who oversees the Safety and Farm Labor Vehicle Education or SAFE
      team that covers the Valley counties between Modesto and Bakersfield. "It's
      impossible to give an exact number, but it's probably a little less than 50
      percent of them that still have the wooden benches."

      That number is probably much higher in the Sacramento, Salinas and Imperial
      valleys, where there are no SAFE teams. Last June, nine farm workers riding
      in a van without seats, benches or seat belts were seriously injured when
      their driver crashed head-on into a pickup on Highway 12 in San Joaquin
      County.

      Farm labor contractors, who rely on drivers known as raiteros to deliver
      crews to the fields, put the number of bench-equipped vans still on the
      road much lower than CHP officials.

      "I think we're down to about 20 percent," said Adam Beas, a Madera-based
      contractor who employs up to 5,500 workers during peak harvest months. Most
      are shuttled by 150 vans owned by labor crews' bosses and other workers.
      Well-equipped, CHP-certified vans dominate the roadways now, Beas said.

      "They're up to snuff," he said. "They've got all the stickers, the phone
      numbers, the belts and the seats. It's been a monumental change that has
      driven a lot of the bad guys out of business." The CHP's own numbers seem
      to back up Beas' assessment that traveling to and from the fields is not
      nearly as deadly.

      From 1994 to the Five Points crash in 1999, 25 farm workers died in traffic
      accidents involving regulated farm labor vans in the San Joaquin Valley.
      Since then, there have been no deaths in the Valley resulting from
      accidents that involved a regulated farm labor vehicle, according to CHP
      statistics. Between the beginning of 2000 and June 30, 2001, there were 27
      accidents involving farm labor vehicles, and 87 people suffered injuries.

      Farm-worker advocates agree that the decline in traffic deaths is
      encouraging but still argue that holding farmers liable for the safety of
      the workers that tie their vines, prune their trees and harvest their crops
      is the best protection. Most farmers pay labor contractors to hire work
      crews.

      Getting workers to and from the fields used to be the growers'
      responsibility. Then farm labor contractors took over before shifting the
      transportation job to raiteros. Raiteros often are labor crew bosses who
      find workers and make sure they show up in the fields. Though it's illegal,
      many raiteros charge workers a fee for a ride to the fields and often make
      it a condition of employment.

      "We really need to get to the point where growers can no longer hide behind
      the veil of labor contractors," said Chris Schneider, executive director of
      the Fresno-based Central California Legal Services.

      Growers such as Craig Pedersen, a Kings County farmer, dispute that they
      should be legally responsible for workers they don't directly hire and
      employ.

      "For me to shoulder the responsibility of someone else's business is
      irresponsible," Pedersen said. "The workers are invaluable to our business,
      and of course we are concerned about their safety, but it comes down to
      pure economics for the farmer."

      Madrigal says the SAFE team officers will use their four enforcement drills
      each week to root out vans still equipped with benches, relying heavily on
      information from workers, contractors and growers who tip them off where
      illegal vans might be operating.

      Drivers caught transporting farm workers on benches will be charged with a
      misdemeanor and face fines of $1,000 plus $500 for each passenger on board,
      up to $5,000.

      CHP officers will permanently impound vans caught operating illegally more
      than three times.

      "That gives us enforcement power not only over drivers but against the
      vehicles as well," Madrigal said, "and we can get them off the road for
      good."
      ------------------------------------------------------------------------
      About the Writer
      ---------------------------


      The Fresno Bee's Lesli A. Maxwell can be reached at (916) 326-5541 or
      lmaxwell@.... The Fresno Bee's Louis Galvan contributed to this
      report.


      ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    • Shurtleff, Cynthia
      Go to hmhbwa.org ... From: Abdoni3@cs.com [mailto:Abdoni3@cs.com] Sent: Wednesday, March 27, 2002 7:12 AM To: migrant_health_research@yahoogroups.com Subject:
      Message 2 of 10 , Apr 1 3:36 PM
      View Source
      • 0 Attachment

        Go to hmhbwa.org

         

        -----Original Message-----
        From: Abdoni3@... [mailto:Abdoni3@...]
        Sent: Wednesday, March 27, 2002 7:12 AM
        To: migrant_health_research@yahoogroups.com
        Subject: Re: [migrant_health_research] Prenatal Care for Hispanic Women

         

        Is there an address/info to access this baby book?


        To Post a message, send it to:   migrant_health_research@...

        To Unsubscribe, send a blank message to: migrant_health_research-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com


        Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to the Yahoo! Terms of Service.

      • Shurtleff, Cynthia
        Go to hmhbwa.org ... From: Shurtleff, Cynthia [mailto:cshurt@chmc.org] Sent: Monday, April 01, 2002 3:37 PM To: migrant_health_research@yahoogroups.com
        Message 3 of 10 , Apr 1 3:50 PM
        View Source
        • 0 Attachment

          Go to hmhbwa.org

           

          -----Original Message-----
          From: Shurtleff, Cynthia [mailto:cshurt@...]
          Sent: Monday, April 01, 2002 3:37 PM
          To: 'migrant_health_research@yahoogroups.com'
          Subject: RE: [migrant_health_research] Prenatal Care for Hispanic Women

           

          Go to hmhbwa.org

           

          -----Original Message-----
          From: Abdoni3@... [mailto:Abdoni3@...]
          Sent: Wednesday, March 27, 2002 7:12 AM
          To: migrant_health_research@yahoogroups.com
          Subject: Re: [migrant_health_research] Prenatal Care for Hispanic Women

           

          Is there an address/info to access this baby book?

          To Post a message, send it to:   migrant_health_research@...

          To Unsubscribe, send a blank message to: migrant_health_research-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com


          Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to the Yahoo! Terms of Service.



          To Post a message, send it to:   migrant_health_research@...

          To Unsubscribe, send a blank message to: migrant_health_research-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com


          Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to the Yahoo! Terms of Service.
        Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.