Twenty Taylor Farms Workers Hospitalized After Company Tells Employees to Keep Working Amid Chemical Spill

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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

safety.”

 

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

Teamsters.

 

“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

and health.

 

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

Francisco.

 

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.

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