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Father of Mexican worker killed in farm accident attends vigil in Albion

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 March 2015 at 12:00 am

Daniel Larios Hernandez seeks better working and living conditions for migrant workers

Photos by Tom Rivers – Daniel Larios Hernandez holds a picture of his son, Luis Daniel Larios Hernandez, in a march on Main Street in Albion to raise awareness about the dangers of working on farms. The march followed a vigil at the Presbyterian Church in honor of Luis and other farmworkers who died on the job.

ALBION – Daniel Larios Hernandez said his son was hard-working and determined to provide for his family, which included his wife Teresa and 4-year-old daughter Citlalli of Jalisco, Mexico.

Luis Daniel Larios Hernandez, or “Dani,” had worked in the United States at farms in Florida and California. Last year he came to Western New York for the first time, hired by Root Brothers Farm.

He was killed in an accident on Aug. 29 when he was standing next to a parked farm truck and a second truck (also parked and unoccupied) rolled down a slight incline and struck Dani, age 25. He was pinned between the two vehicles, according to a report from Orleans County Sheriff’s Department.

Dani’s father raised money and sold off pieces of his property to travel from Mexico and see where his son died. He made the trip to honor his son and other workers from Mexico who make the long journey to work at U.S. farms.

“We are trying to commemorate my son,” Larios Hernandez said through an interpreter with about dozen supporters. “I want to reiterate my support for all of the migrants. I want this action to be on their behalf.”

Paula Macas Betchart, an organizer with the Worker Justice Center of NY, speaks during a vigil and rally inside the First Presbyterian Church of Albion. The three photos show workers who died in a farm accidents in Penn Yann, Ithaca and Albion.

Larios Hernandez was joined by the Worker Justice Center of NY, the Workers’ Center of Central New York and a few members of churches in Albion, Brockport and Rochester.

“This is a sad day,” said Bill Plews, a member of the Brockport Ecumenical Outreach Committee. “This is a reminder of a very tragic day.”

The groups would like to see safer farms for the farm owners and their workers, better housing for the workers and an immigration overhaul, so workers can more easily cross the border and return home when their work is done.

Rebecca Fuentes, an organizer with the Workers’ Center of CNY, is pushing for more farm inspections by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, stiffer fines for infractions, more safety training and better protective equipment and gear for workers.

“Dani” is one of 61 farmworkers who died on NY farms between 2006-2014, with 23 dying in 2014, with tractor rollovers and entanglement in other farm machinery the leading causes of death, according to the Worker Justice Center.

The vigil for Dani today included photos of workers who died in farm accidents, including Marco Antonio Ortiz Perez in Penn Yann and Francisco Oritz in Ithaca.

“These are fatalities that are preventable,” Fuentes said. “Agriculture is one of the most dangerous places to work.”

She spoke at a press conference outside Root Farms on Route 31A in Barre. Some of the posters made for the vigil and rally included images of tomatoes. “Dani” was working with tomatoes the day he died.

Daniel Larios Hernandez holds a picture of his son while standing along Route 31A in Barre, near Root Brothers Farm. The rain caused the writing to bleed.

“When you pick up a tomato or an apple or drink a glass a milk, think about the labor that went into it, and not just the farmer but the farmworker as well,” Fuentes said.

She said many farmworkers return home with serious injuries – missing fingers and sore backs – that make it difficult for them to provide for their families.

Improved safety programs would beenfit the farm owners as well, she said. Their workers would be less likely to be injured, their would be reduced workman’s compensation costs, and the farmers could save their own lives, Fuentes said.

“There’s this way of thinking that farmers are very strong and self reliant,” she said. “But what does that mean if you’re missing an arm or a leg, or if you lose your life?”

Larios Hernandez wants to raise the farm safety issue in the region, home to a dynamic fruit, vegetable and dairy sector that rely heavily on physical labor.

He will speak at a Presbyterian Church in Gates this evening and will also address a group in Syracuse on Monday.

He said his son was a friendly person who loved his family. In Mexico, “Dani” worked at a job installing closed circuit televisions.

He made the trip to Orleans County last year, traveling with family to work at Root Brothers.

“He was very caring,” Larios Hernandez said through an interpreter. “He was very humane. He respected everybody and treated everybody equal.”

Gail Mott, a member of the Downtown United Presbyterian Church in Rochester, makes posters in Albion for a vigil and rally.