Six months after dairy farm worker Randy Vasquez drowned in an unmarked manure pond while working at night, his widow and labor supporters met to protest unsafe conditions at Dairygold headquarters. The labor leaders attempted to deliver over 30,000 petitions asking for a dialogue with Dairygold executives concerning worker safety but were met with locked doors.
When the event organizers called the front desk to ask to meet with the CEO, they was told “he’s not here” followed by silence. Labor leaders staged a sit in at the front doors but no one from Dairygold spoke to the group.
“Nobody should die like Randy Vasquez did, drowning in a manure pond at a Darigold member farm in Mabton, WA. His death earlier this year has strengthened the resolve of Darigold farmworkers and inspired other labor and community activists to take up the battle to improve dairy workers’ safety.
Next Wednesday, September 2nd, we’ll deliver more than 30,000 petition signatures to Darigold demanding that the company meet with the United Farm Workers (UFW) to deal with health and safety for farmworkers. The petitions will be delivered in a casket, honoring the eleven dairy farmworkers who have died in recent years. After Randy’s death, the dairy was fined a paltry $6,800 by L&I for “serious” safety violations – but the owner is appealing even that small fine, evidently the going price for a farmworker’s death.
Dairy work is among the most dangerous in the country with injury rates 50% higher than in most private sector jobs. Dairy workers typically work five or six 12-hour days, followed by one day off before they’re back to work. They breathe foul air containing bacteria and manure dust, moving quickly over slick cement floors, often stepped on by 1,500 pound cattle.”
- Martin Luther King County Labor council