PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A federal investigation into a van crash that killed three migrant farm workers in Salem found that the Oregon labor contractor who did the hiring violated federal laws by failing to ensure the workers had safe transportation to and from work.
The U.S. Department of Labor announced Monday that Salem-based JMG Labor Contractor, run by Jose Mota Gonzales, allowed the transportation of workers without required authorization, failed to provide safe transportation and failed to ensure the vehicle’s driver had a valid driver’s license, among other violations, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.
JMG Labor Contractor has paid $32,500 in penalties through a settlement.
The crash happened in November 2019 when over a dozen Guatemalan Christmas tree workers packed into a van after loading Christmas trees into delivery trucks at Holiday Tree Farms in Corvallis.
The Department of Labor reported 16 people were in the van when it crashed. Police at the time said 13 people were inside.
During a phone call with The Oregonian/OregonLive Monday, Mota said he doesn’t believe the federal government should be faulting him for the crash because he didn’t arrange transportation for the workers and it didn’t occur during work hours.
“I had nothing to do with it,” Mota said. “All I did was give the people a job. I didn’t do anything wrong.”
The Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act says any “non-exempt person who uses or causes to be used a vehicle to transport any migrant or seasonal agricultural worker” is required to ensure that the driver of the vehicle has a license and maintains proper insurance, among other requirements.