Part of the police investigation involving farm labourer Martin Hernandez included interviews with Mexican workers who provided the following statements. Sandy Diaz-Hart acted as interpreter for the police during the investigation.
A worker who was witness to Hernandez’ original accident, Ignacio Lopez, also witnessed his fall from the ladder.
“Martin eventually called Sandy because no one else would help him out,” Lopez said. He also stated that the workers were prohibited from asking anyone (helping the workers) to set foot on his property.
When asked if he was paying rent, Lopez replied that deductions of up to $550 per season were taken from the workers pay. He was under the impression that whoever the workers invited in to provide help was their right.
“I have been unhappy since I came here,” he continued, “the living conditions are so bad – nothing is being done about it.”
He also indicated that he was upset about the treatment they were receiving on the farm, and that he had had previous issues with the employer.
A second interview involving fellow worker Carlos Areaas revealed that although he did not witness the two accidents, he was in the vicinity.
He described the scene following Hernandez’ fall from the ladder. It appeared to him that Hernandez did not receive any assistance.
“The conflict started when Martin called the cousulate,” Areaas stated. “We are thankful for Sandy – she is the only one helping us.”
Areaas also had had heated exchanges with the employer, and had called the consulate himself in the past over another matter.
“He gets mad because we don’t speak English,” he answered to a question as to whether comments were directed at the workers were of a racial nature.
In describing the nature of the workers accommodations, Areaas described their situation as being four workers in a house with a stove that only had one working element.They slept on mattresses on the floor, there was no facility to do laundry, and the house was infested with ants and mice.
Next week: The Review speaks with other members of the foreign labour community, as well as other agriculturalists involved in the program. We also review the roles of the two federal agencies involved in the program.