Tomato farm fined $30,000 over workplace injury

Workplace Injury

There is a case in Pennsylvania that demands attention. On Dec. 10, 2017, Darren Moore and his wife, Jocelyn Moore, were working in the early morning hours of an icy field in Ohio County, southwestern Pennsylvania. Their employer, Ryan Farm, was hauling several hundred tons of tomato greens in tractor trailers. An incident occurred, and Darren fell, cutting his right arm severely. His wife drove to a nearby field and called an ambulance, which arrived two minutes later. Doctors cut Moore’s arm open, but couldn’t reattach it.


As the affidavit says, “Mr. Moore suffered at least one fracture and multiple minor puncture wounds, including significant muscle and blood loss. … They applied pressure for approximately thirty minutes to stem the flow of blood from his arm. The leg of the tractor where he fell was covered in heavy, broken ice. While the call for help was made, other tractor trailers were moving throughout the field.”


He then spent six days in the hospital, several in intensive care, and needed more than forty stitches to close his wound. (He has not returned to work.) After Thanksgiving, his arm was in a protective cast for three months. Ryan Farm paid Moore $300 as his settlement.


I don’t know if more than $300 is too little to punish this company recklessness for its negligence. But I do know that Moore’s injuries would not have occurred if another driver had been just a few steps behind, having used a special truck to haul the crops that remained.


To me, this is a case of bad luck. I’m sorry to say that the real story here is that while over two-thirds of American workers have some kind of employer-provided medical insurance, most of those people get it through their employer. For those workers whose insurance doesn’t come from their employer, their options are either to (1) obtain their own health insurance outside the job or (2) work off the employer-sponsored plan until they become eligible to retire, which gets expensive. (It gets a lot more expensive if you have preexisting conditions or if you have a family.) So almost everyone gets crappy coverage.


But companies that use immigrants can pay little attention to “big insurance companies” like Medicaid and Medicare. They’re worried about union organising efforts or community pressure, not insurance companies.


Last year, a University of Pennsylvania study found that people who work for large companies with ties to Mexico work longer hours on average — 3 hours, 42 minutes more per week than the average American — and earn less in the end. The study drew some criticism because it found that one fourth of the families studied made no profit, or had little real income, at all. A slightly more conservative study, led by a Columbia economist, found that 18 percent of household incomes in the study were entirely dependent on a wage.


If the price of immigration is that a significant proportion of the workforce is out of step with the economy, then it’s hard to see how that policy serves the economy.


Just imagine what America might look like if its food industry were running not by sweatshops and aprons and the odd big agriculture project, but by well-trained immigrants earning great wages — which it would need.