Home > Organizing > President's Message

State cites and fines dairy for violations involving gruesome death of dairy worker   

A dairy associated with Darigold Inc. has been cited and fined by the Washington state Labor and Industries Department for safety violations after the grisly Feb. 24, 2015 death of dairy worker Randy Vasquez.

Randy, 27, a milker on the night shift at River Ranch Dairy in Mabton, Wash., drove a front loader to feed cattle at about 9 p.m. that night. He was found by the next shift at 4:30 a.m. on Feb. 25, strapped to the front loader six feet deep in a manure lagoon. Randy died of “asphyxiation due to inhalation of dirty waste water sludge,” according to the Yakima County coroner. No one searched for him when he didn’t return for the 10 p.m. milking shift. The state Labor and Industries Department cited and fined the dairy $6,800 for violations after investigating Randy’s death which included failing to post warning signs or fence the lagoon. The dairy owner is appealing the citation on technical grounds. See this story in the Yakima Herald newspaper: http://www.yakimaherald.com/news/local/mabton-dairy-appeals-workplace-safety-fine/article_89805e06-3fbb-11e5-a95b-6313f0edd5cf.html

Darigold, the huge Seattle-based agricultural dairy marketing cooperative, has 500 dairy farm members. Darigold associates itself with high quality and wholesomeness, but deaths and increasing injuries are plaguing workers on Washington dairies.

Part of quality and wholesomeness also has to be guaranteeing decent—and safe—working conditions for dairy workers.

Arturo S. Rodriguez, President
United Farm Workers of America