Sunday, March 06, 2011


The following appeal is from the American United Farm Workers, and it's about the excessively lenient sentence for the contractor responsible for the death of Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez. This case has been mentioned before here at Molly's Blog. The basic fact is that this young woman was killed by the heat while forced to work in adverse conditions as an agricultural labourer in California. Reports say that the contractor responsible will be let go with a suspended sentence and a minimal fine. The UFW feels that this is totally out of line with the magnitude of the crime. It certainly is as the penalty for a traffic accident causing death would be far harsher in almost every jurisdiction. And this was not an "accident". Here's the story and appeal.
DA plea deal reduces manslaughter to community service
Less than 5 days left to fight this travesty

Time is running out and we need you to take action. March 9th is the hearing for the sentencing of the two people responsible for the heat death of 17-year old Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez. Maria died of heat stroke in 2008 while laboring in the scorching grape vineyards near Stockton. Her body temperature reached 108.

News reports state the district attorney is going with a plea deal that would let the accused go without even jail time, possibly with just community service. Can you believe it?

3 years probation and 40 hours community service for the owner of the labor contractor company and 400 hours of community service and a $1000 file for the company's "Safety Coordinator," instead of the original involuntary manslaughter charge?

The family and the UFW have met with the DA to no avail. The DA has told the family he is proud of setting precedent in California by convicting a labor contractor of a felony .

Is that an even exchange for the life of a young girl? What does it matter if the system calls it a "felony," if justice is not served?

I'm sure you will join us in saying “No. That is not enough!” There were laws in place to protect farm workers from heat stroke and the labor contractor and her safety supervisor had the responsibility to ensure they were followed. It's simple. They didn't. Not even the most basic heat laws were followed.

This was not a one time occurrence for this employer. In 2006, Merced Farm Labor was fined for failure to have a written heat stress prevention plan and heat stress training for workers, as required by law. But they did not care. They never even paid the fine.

Please send an e-mail immediately and tell the District Attorney, James Willett, not to set a precedent that farm workers' lives are unimportant. There must be serious consequences. Tell him that jail time is a must and nothing short of that will satisfy the family or the public.
Please go to the highlighted link above to send the following letter to the Disrict Attorney in charge of this case.

Please do not go ahead with your planned plea bargain in the tragic heat death of 17-year old Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez.

California’s 650,000 farm workers face a daily risk of death and illness from toiling in stifling summer heat. They are at the mercy of agricultural employers and farm labor contractors who many times fail to live up to their constitutional and statutory duties to protect the safety of farm workers. Farm workers are literally dying because of the state’s broken system, which is designed in a way that ensures inadequate enforcement of the law. The laws in the books are not the laws in the fields. You have the opportunity to change this and ensure there a real consequences for breaking the law.

You have the unique opportunity to set a precedent that will make agricultural employers think twice about not following the laws of California and putting at risk the life of a human being. This will only happen if there are real consequences to farm employers breaking the law. The word "felony" is not enough.

The case of Maria Isabel Vazquez Jimenez is hard to accept, because it didn't need to happen. There is no difference between a driver killing someone while breaking our traffic laws and a labor contractor breaking the law and killing this beautiful young woman.

Maria's family and the public ask that you do everything in your power to ensure that these farm labor contractors are sentenced to the fullest extent of the law. Fines and community service hours aren't enough. Anything less than jail time is a desecration of Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez' death.

Thank you.

1 comment:

janfromthebruce said...

Molly I signed and sent it out to my FB friends & tweeted it! Unbelievable!