By Miriam Raftery
October 17, 2010 (San Diego’s East County) – The Los Angeles Times reveals in that a worker at California Lieutenant Governor Abel Maldonado’s 6,000 farm in Santa Maria was crushed to death by a tractor. In direct violation of state law, there was no spotter directing the equipment and no one on site with first-aid certification. The operation has many other citations for violations of workplace safety, as well as tax liens.
Maldonado, a Republican seeking reelection, says some citations are the result of overzealous regulation that “put businesses out of business” in California. The violations by Agro-Jal Farming Enterprises include exposing workers to toxic pesticides and avoiding clean water regulations. www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-maldonado-20101015,0,5156526.story.
The L.A. Times noted that “The stiffest penalty Cal/OSHA levied against the farm came in 2005, after two inspections found tractors rumbling across the fields with nobody in the driver's seat. Instead, the crews were relying on furrows in the ground to keep the tractors straight… Agro-Jal had also been cited for using driverless tractors in 1999 and 2001, records show. The California Rural Legal Assistance, which represents injured farmhands, has been trying to stop the practice for years.”
Son of a Mexican farmworker who came to California in the early 1960s, Maldonado grew up picking strawberries before building a family agri-business. He has campaigned on values learned in the fields—hard work and personal responsibility.
Maldonado is running against San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, who is running a platform that includes strong environmental protections and accuses Maldonado of pocketing huge energy and oil industry donations in exchange for votes against the interest of consumers and workers.