Workers at Taylor Farms in Tracy, California were hospitalized after being told to return to work
as a chemical spill took place inside the salad processing facility.
When they complained about
the overpowering fumes, a supervisor in charge instructed them to go back to work.
“As soon as I walked into work, there was a strong smell of chlorine,” said Guadalupe Leon, a
worker at the facility.
“I spoke to my crew lead but was told to keep working and put on the
mask. Suddenly I felt overcome by the fumes from the chemicals and me and some of my
coworkers had to go to the hospital. I don’t think the company really cares about us or our
The workers, who have long complained about improper safety training and chemicals used by
the company, were exposed to fumes last Thursday that led to nose-bleeding, vomiting and
fainting. As workers started having serious symptoms, it was a worker – not a manager – who
called for emergency services.
“The manager at the plant told us to keep the chemical spill a secret. They just didn’t seem to
care at all about me or my coworkers when this happened,” said Premativo Torres, who also
works at the plant.
Taylor Farms is the world’s largest salad processor, supplying to major fast food, restaurant and
grocery chains nationwide. Its 900 workers in Tracy have been attempting to organize a union
with Teamsters Local 601 for the last two years, aspiring to the better working conditions and
pay enjoyed by some 2,000 Taylor Farms workers in Salinas, Calif. who are represented by the
“Taylor Farms’ routine mistreatment of its workers in Tracy knows no bounds, and it nearly
amounted to a death sentence for its employees,” said Ashley Alvarado, Secretary-Treasurer of
Teamsters Local 601 in Stockton.
“What kind of company tells its employees to keep working
amid a dangerous and potentially deadly hazard in the workplace?”
“We are outraged not just because this was absolutely preventable – we have repeatedly raised
concerns and filed complaints regarding worker safety issues involving chemicals and other
problems – but because this event was also absolutely predictable given Taylor Farms’ years-
long, million-dollar effort to deny its Tracy workers a voice on the job regarding their own safety
Accidents happen, but in Salinas, where Taylor Farms’ employees have a union,
there are hazmat plans, there are drills, and if there were an accident, workers would never have
been treated this way,” added Rome Aloise, President of Teamsters Joint Council 7 in San
Workers and the Teamsters are calling for an immediate and full investigation of yesterday’s
chemical spill incident; the termination of the responsible managers and supervisors; and several
workers are considering legal action.
The Tracy Fire Department said yesterday’s incident was caused by the mixture of acetic acid
and chlorine, two chemicals used by the sanitation crew inside the plant. Co-workers helped the
injured out of the facility and called for paramedics after the supervisor present failed to do so.
Among the 20 workers sent to the hospital, two were pregnant women, at least one of which
experienced abdominal pains after breathing in the fumes.
Workers also report that several injured employees were instructed by the hospital upon
discharge to stay home an additional day, but that those instructions were countermanded by the
company’s doctor, who ordered a return to work the next day.
The incident that occurred last Thursday mirrors a similar emergency filed with CalOSHA in
2012 in which 20 workers at the same Taylor Farms facility were taken to the hospital for eye
and breathing irritation after being exposed to the industrial cleaning chemicals.
“The company has failed these workers in Tracy. This accident could have been avoided. The
gross neglect for these workers’ safety – even after numerous complaints – and the total lack of
accountability is disturbing and shameful,” said Alvarado of Teamsters local 601.
The National Labor Relations Board has made merit determinations that Taylor Farms is guilty
of 57 unfair labor practice violations since workers began organizing with the union in Tracy.