December 31, 2016
By Steven Wishnia and Neal Tepel
Lake Placid, FL – In the last two years, at least 38 migrant farmworkers have been killed and more than 200 injured in accidents involving vehicles taking them to or from work, according to an Associated Press report released Dec. 22.
“I think there’s more unregistered, improperly insured, unsafe transportation out there for farmworkers than… 20 years ago,” said attorney Greg Schell, deputy director of Southern Migrant Legal Services. Among the dead was Jose Rangel Chavez, a 22-year-old guest worker from Mexico who had been making $11.56 an hour plus room and board working for Vasquez Citrus & Hauling of Lake Placid, Florida. He was one of six people killed when a Vasquez-owned bus bringing guest workers back to Mexico hit a bridge support on Interstate 40 in Arkansas on Nov. 6, 2015. The driver did not have a commercial operator’s license, and in the two years before the crash, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Vasquez Citrus had received 22 citations for alleged violations, including underage drivers and vehicles with worn tires. Companies “end up saving money by just paying the fine and treating the farmworkers as disposable,” says Dawson Morton of the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation. Read more