Stale Air

The anonymous employee alleges working conditions in the Fresh Express plant are so bad that some people are on medical leave.

It all started with a “strong odor.” On Jan. 16, an employee of the Fresh Express packing plant in Salinas emailed local media claiming there was a chemical leak inside of the Blanco Road property. In their email, the employee, who wishes to be anonymous for fear of retaliation, writes out the chronology of events that pushed them to file a complaint with California’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, CalOSHA.

“For the past two weeks there has been a chemical leakage inside Fresh Express and many employees have been getting sick,” the worker wrote. When employees raised the issue, management confirmed there was indeed a leak, but allegedly couldn’t trace its source.

The employee says they have broken out in hives and nearly passed out. “Many of my coworkers have been put on medical leave because of this incident,” the employee writes. “And the ones who are still working have hives, really red eyes or having difficulty breathing.

“We are told to work in these conditions without personal protective equipment.”

CalOSHA spokesperson Frank Polizzi confirms the department received the complaint and opened an investigation on Jan. 13, but cannot provide any further comment while the investigation is ongoing. Neither Fresh Express and Chiquita, the parent company, have a comment as of the Weekly’s deadline.

Marielle Argueza is a staff writer and calendar editor for the Weekly. She covers education, immigration and culture. Additionally, she covers the areas of Marina and South County. She occasionally writes about food and runs the internship program.

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