More safety violations at Maldonado family farm

November 6, 2012

Abel Maldonado

Since Abel Maldonado announced his plans to run for congress, his 6,000-acre farm in Santa Maria has had three Cal/OSHA citations for issues regarding employee safety.

Since the 1990s, Agro-Jal has accumulated dozens of Cal/OSHA violations and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines while Maldonado served as the farm’s controller.

In early 2011, Maldonado’s family business was cited for allowing farm equipment to work the fields with no driver at the wheel. In 2010, Cal/OSHA cited Agro-Jal four times for running unmanned tractors and for failing to provide adequate access to shade or water for employees.

On Nov. 4, 2011, inspectors lodged two complaints against Agro-Jal for not operating under mandated safe work practices and for failing to report employee injuries. More than 600 employees were exposed to harm because of the farm’s operational deficiencies, according to Cal/OSHA.

The Nov. 2011 inspection resulted in fines of $23,000.

The former lieutenant governor, who has stated he is a defender of small businesses, has repeatedly voted against farm worker safety bills. As a legislator, Maldonado voted against several bills that would have set standards for controlling the risks of heat-related illnesses, and others regarding mandated meal and rest periods for employees who work outside.

Maldonado’s father came to California from Mexico in the early 1960s. Abel Maldonado grew up working on the farm with his family.

During his campaign for Congress, Maldonado has frequently touted his business savvy and work ethics learned while working to build up his family’s business — which now includes more than 6,000 acres.

Maldonado is currently engaged in a tough election battle against incumbent Congresswoman Lois Capps.


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Yep. Cal OSHA violations all over everywhere. Why pick on him? We should THANK him for providing jobs. More than we can say for Lois.

Oh yeah? Perhaps Maldonado should thank US for providing customers AND employees. If it wasn’t for both of those, Maldonado wouldn’t have a successful business.

We could survive without Maldonado’s business. Maldonado’s business would NOT survive without customers or employees.

I think you have your priorities mixed-up once again, TaxMe.

I suspect that Maldy’s WHOLE LIFE has been a “safety violation.”

I’m not an Abel fan but I just wonder how his farm compares to other farms in this regard, I wonder how often (and well) his farm in inspected vs oh, say, a big democratic party donor’s farm? Just thinking out loud here.

One thing that would make keeping informed of Cal-OSHA violations is if their database was a little easier to actually find something on. I think it’s great that it is on the federal OSHA database, because it makes it easier to track violations from one principle that might have several companies in different states.

typical Politician

Mary Malone, I see Cal Osha violations up here in the North County on a regular basis. People are working in the vineyards on days where the temperatures are 95 and above, with no shade (trees or umbrellas) in sight. If Cal Osha visited these vineyards, they too would be cited.

I agree that everyone should follow Cal Osha standards. I also think that people in the North and South county areas are really ignorant when it comes to heat stroke. They continue activities –the Fair, festivals, school football practice, etc. when the temperatures are over 100 degrees.

I had my own experience with heat exhaustion while volunteering at the city park when the temperature was 102 degrees. I was in partial shade, I was drinking water, but after 2 hours I started feeling weak, slightly dizzy, and I noticed that I was not sweating. I thought I might pass out, so, I went home, drank water, and turned the air conditioner up.

I didn’t even tell anyone that I felt bad–I thought it was just me feeling ill.

I should have recovered in a hour or so, but I didn’t and that’s when I suspected that I had really gotten overheated. It took about 8 hours of sleeping, staying cool and drinking water before I felt normal again. It was not until after I recovered that I realized that I had probably experienced heat exhaustion, the first phase toward heat stroke.

My point is that we in the North County who experience these over 100 degree temperatures have all kinds of activities right now such as wine festivals (and wine is dehydrating) , employers work people in these temperatures, schools have football practice, and outdoor activities sometimes without providing water. It’s rampant.

Most people do not recognize the signs of heat related illnesses, even the people who get ill. Do you think Paso is going to warn tourists about heat stroke??? Or does the county warn vineyard owners about heat stroke??? Cal Osha only comes in when they are notified about a possible violation or someone is hurt on the job.

It may not be right, it may not comply with Cal Osha regulations; but that’s the way it is all over the North County. That’s why we really don’t know what to say when one person (Maldonado) is cited for heat illness violations when hundreds of farm and vineyard owners could be cited if Cal Osha made regular checks for violations.

QUOTING CITIZEN: “Mary Malone, I see Cal Osha violations up here in the North County on a regular basis. People are working in the vineyards on days where the temperatures are 95 and above, with no shade (trees or umbrellas) in sight. If Cal Osha visited these vineyards, they too would be cited.”

Let me just say, first off, I am so sorry to read that you became so ill because of the heat. I’m glad you had the knowledge, or instincts, to mediate the damage before it occurred. I had a “heat incident” when I was 8 months pregnant, so I have some idea how scary it can be.

California State and the Feds have had a very aggressive program to educate employers of the requirements, and to provide them the resources they need so they can comply with the regulations. Really, there is NO reason for people to risk their lives doing agricultural or construction work, just because the employer refuses to comply with the regulations.

The attitude of many employers towards their largely male Latino workers in the landscape and construction labor industry. Often they are treated like they are a disposable tool, to be used and then discarded when broken.

That is why it is important for these heat-related injuries and deaths, and the enforcement (especially the fines, because that will convince an employer to follow the regulations, if nothing else will), need to be covered by journals and other media publications.

In my research on the fines for a one-person injury/death, the fine ($34,390.00) for Mr. Jesse Maldonado Jr’s injury/death was very large.

If you read the report, the lack of care and protection provided by KCI International to its workers is shameful and tragic. What kind of a company would put workers at risk of death like that? Where their internal organs liquify?

The only reason Cal-OSHA was involved with Mr. Jesse Maldonado Jr’s case is because he died on the job BECAUSE of regulations with which the employer, KCI International, failed to comply.. Cal-OSHA didn’t go out looking for this case.

Cal-OSHA’s Citation and Notification of Penalty specifically states that the employer’s failure to adequately provide even minimal training …”resulting in a fatal heat injury.”

This means it is KCI International’s fault that Mr. Maldonado died such a horrible death, on the job.

Again, when Mr. Maldonado reached AG Hospital, his core body temperature was 108.9 degrees. His internal organs had begun liquifying.

In case anyone is interested, the “Citation and Notification of Penalty” to the employer (KCI International) has been uploaded on Scribd (

The first page is a print-out of the inspection summary. The “Violation Summary” and “Violation Items” are at the bottom of the first page. You will note there are THREE “Serious” citation violations. KCI International is at fault for the death of Mr. Maldonado because they failed to follow the regulations for which they were issued the three “Serious” violation citations.