Editorials

Goodwill has a stellar reputation. It’s falling short in the death of Abraham Garza.

Abraham Garza, 26, died after suffering a head injury while working as a spotter to ensure that bins aligned with a trash compactor, authorities said.
Abraham Garza, 26, died after suffering a head injury while working as a spotter to ensure that bins aligned with a trash compactor, authorities said. Courtesy Goodwill Industries

On its website, Goodwill Industries pledges to “welcome people with diverse backgrounds, including persons with disabilities or other disadvantages.”

But as The Sacramento Bee’s Marjie Lundstrom reports, the Goodwill Outlet on Franklin Boulevard bungled its response to the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health’s documentation of worker safety violations, and is failing to uphold its own stated mission.

Dave Goudie, a commercial driver, had warned Goodwill managers about safety hazards and inadequate training at the Franklin Boulevard facility. Then last September, Goudie was witness to a terrible accident when another Goodwill worker, Abraham Nicholas Garza, a 26-year-old father of a young boy, was crushed to death, as detailed in an earlier article by Lundstrom.

Goudie portrays himself a whistleblower. But Goodwill has responded by blaming Goudie for the death, and firing him. To sully his reputation, the organization cites a court case in which Goudie was accused of stabbing a roommate with a sword, though that case was dismissed.

But all that is extraneous. As Lundstrom reported, Goodwill evidently failed to establish safety procedures and that there were unsafe working conditions at the Franklin facility, as determined by state safety and health inspectors.

Under California law, the charity bears culpability for such lapses. State inspectors cited deep-seated safety lapses, and penalized the nonprofit organization in March with a record $106,675 in fines and six violations, four of them deemed “serious.” One carries potential criminal liability.

Federal occupational and safety regulations say employers are required to “establish, implement and maintain an effective injury and Injury Prevention Program.” Cal-OSHA’s investigation found that the Goodwill location failed to establish such a program, a basic safety procedure.

Whatever questions Goodwill raises about Goudie now, Goodwill likely knew of his background when it hired him. On its website, the charity notes that its “offers of employment may be contingent on satisfactory results of a criminal history background check.”

If Goudie’s brush with the law is an issue now, why was it not a problem when Goodwill chose to hire him regardless of his past? But hiring people who have a hard time finding work is part of Goodwill’s mission. Indeed, Goodwill Industries International Inc. boasts that it attempts to give second chances to people with criminal backgrounds by offering them jobs.

A Cal-OSHA compliance officer, Anthony M. Galvez, wrote that Goudie “was a key witness and participant during the investigation” on Garza’s death, and had provided “a reasonable account of the sequence of events leading up to the accident.”

“This is not the first time we have seen an employer fire an employee after having engaged in an accident investigation with us,” Galvez wrote.

Goodwill is appealing the fines levied by Cal-OSHA, as is its right. But the nonprofit also is refusing to make public detailed information about its safety procedures, and why Goodwill feels it’s not at fault.

Goodwill is not just any employer. It aspires to meet its mission of giving a hand to people who are having a tough time. Over the decades, Goodwill has built a reputation for being a pillar of the community. It ought to start acting that way.

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