Grimmway Farms, two labor contractors cited for serious safety violations in case of Bakersfield farmworker killed while picking carrots

June 26, 2024 /

Rosa Miriam Sanchez and her children. (Photo provided by family)

Cal/Osha, the state agency that regulates workplace safety, has issued serious safety violations against Bakersfield ag giant Grimmway Farms, labor contractors Esparza Enterprises, and M&M Labor in the case of Rosa Sanchez of Bakersfield who was run over by a truck while picking carrots on September 20, 2023.  All three entities were cited for violating the state’s injury and illness prevention program under labor regulations.  “Employees were permitted to perform work functions, such as harvesting operations in close proximity to a Commercial Truck being driven in an unsafe manner,” states the Cal/Osha report.

M&M Labor received two serious violations totaling $29,475. Esparza Enterprises received one serious violation for a current penalty of $5,738 and Grimmway Farms received two serious violations for a current penalty of $27,000.  

Workers continue picking carrots next to the body of Rosa Sanchez who was struck and killed by a truck. (Photo courtesy of Luz Ramirez)

The unidentified driver of the truck that struck Sanchez was hired by M&M Labor. Sanchez worked for labor contractor Esparza Enterprises, and the fatal accident happened in a remote carrot field owned by Grimmway Farms in Santa Barbara County, about 90 minutes from Bakersfield. According to the report by Cal/Osha, “M&M Labor failed to correct the unsafe operation of a Commercial Vehicle by an employee, thus exposing employees of Esparza Enterprises Inc. to the hazard of being struck by the commercial vehicle.” Numerous calls placed to M&M for comment have not been returned.

Esparza Enterprises was issued one serious violation.  The Cal/Osha report reads, “Esparza Enterprises Inc. failed to correct the unsafe operation of a Commercial Vehicle, driven by an M&M Labor employee and employees were exposed to the danger of being struck.” Calls placed to Esparza Enterprises for comment were not returned.

Ag giant Grimmway Farms was cited for two serious violations. “Grimmway Enterprises was responsible for safety and health conditions at the site and failed to correct the unsafe operation of a Commercial Vehicle driven by an M&M Labor Inc. employee,” states the Cal/Osha report.  A Grimmway spokesperson responded with an email that reads, “As we have since the day of this tragic accident, we are and remain committed to working with Cal-OSHA throughout this process.  However, until this matter is fully resolved,  we are unable to comment on pending matters. We again extend our deepest sympathies to Ms. Sanchez’s family and co-workers on this loss.”

Rosa Sanchez was a 58-year-old immigrant from El Salvador who settled in Bakersfield. Like thousands of other farmworkers, she was working for a farm labor contractor, Esparza Enterprises.  On Sept. 20, she worked alongside others picking carrots.  Co-worker Ernesto Perez Jr. was finishing his break and returning to work. Suddenly, he heard people screaming. A truck driver moving in reverse had struck someone.

Rosa Miriam Sanchez and her family. The 58 year-old immigrant from El Salvador came to the United States hoping to provide a better life for her children. (Photo courtesy of her family)

“I ran to try and pull the person out from underneath the tires, and it was Rosa,” said Perez, his voice cracking. Perez worked for the same labor contractor as Sanchez, working alongside her for months. Perez said the truck had no beeping alarm as it was backing up. The situation turned yet more tragic; among those running and screaming was Miriam Ramirez, Rosa’s 24-year-old daughter who also worked with the same crew picking carrots.

The daughter took her mother’s body as she called 911. Her mother died in her arms, she said.  Witnesses said they became further incensed when they were told to get back to work while Sanchez’s body lay in the field under a yellow covering while awaiting an ambulance.  Nayali Flores, the crew leader, said she asked her supervisor if they should quit working in light of what happened and with Sanchez’s body nearby in clear sight.

“They just told me, ‘Well, we have to finish this part, and we need help,’ so they brought in another crew next to her and we finished,” Flores said.

Miriam Ramirez, daughter of Rosa Miriam Sanchez.  The daughter called 911 as she held her mother in her arms after being hit by a truck at their work. (Courtesy of family)

But farmworkers say they also want an investigation into supervisors’ decision to order laborers to finish picking carrots while Sanchez’s body still lay in the dirt. Some workers said the incident had left them shaken, and some have chosen to look for other work rather than return to the farm.

The victim’s family is represented by the law firm of Karns and Karns of Los Angeles.  The firm did not respond to calls for comment on the safety violations issued by Cal/Osha. 

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Jose Gaspar

José Gaspar is a veteran journalist and former news anchor/reporter with Telemundo, Bakersfield. Prior, he worked 28 years at KBAK-TV as a reporter. Email him at