SALEM, OR – After a hard day spent loading Christmas trees into delivery trucks bound for homes and offices nationwide, 16 migrant workers packed into a van. As they headed home, a pick-up truck suddenly and violently slammed into the van’s side at a Salem intersection. The collision killed three farmworkers and hospitalized several others with severe injuries.
US Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division investigators later learned that the van’s driver had a suspended license, lacked proper vehicle insurance and failed to register as an employee of a farm labor contractor, as the law requires. Marion County police authorities determined that the van driver failed to obey a traffic light and yield the right of way.
The division found that JMG Labor Contractor of Salem had employed the workers at Holiday Tree Farms, a large Corvallis-based grower of Christmas trees sold at Home Depot and Costco stores. Holiday Tree Farms had contracted JMG’s services though the contractor’s registration required under the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act was expired.
“The loss of three lives and the serious injuries suffered by other workers in this case is tragic and devastating for the workers and their grieving families,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Carrie Aguilar in Portland, Oregon. “Laws exist to try to prevent such terrible situations, and the trauma they inflict on an entire community. We encourage all employers to review their operations and make certain they are complying with the law.”
The division determined that JMG violated the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, for which it has paid $32,500 in penalties. The investigation found that JMG:
Failed to provide safe transportation vehicles as required.
Failed to ensure driver held a valid driver’s license.
Failed to ensure the van and its driver had proper insurance coverage.
Failed to maintain active registration as a farm labor contractor.
Failed to register the driver as an employee of a farm labor contractor.
Permitted the transportation of workers without required authorization.
The division offers multiple compliance assistance resources, including an agriculture compliance assistance toolkit, to provide employers the information they need to comply with the law. For more information about the FLSA and other laws enforced by the division, contact the agency’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Learn more about the Wage and Hour Division, including a search tool to use if you think you may be owed back wages collected by the division.
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