The Progress We Made Together

March 29, 2019

On June of 2017, Leezandra Aponte, a 37-year-old mother of three, lover of salsa music, flowers, and decorating, was killed on the first day of her temporary job at Lynnway Auto Auction in Billerica. That day, a vehicle suddenly accelerated across the indoor facility, striking Aponte and several others before crashing through an exterior cinderblock wall. Four others were killed during the horrific event.
Yesterday, after completing a lengthy investigation into the fatal incident, Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan announced both Lynnway Auto Auction and its operator, Jim Lamb, have been charged with manslaughter.
"The indictments allege the company and Mr. Lamb are both responsible for not taking actions that could have prevented this tragedy," Ryan said in a news conference.
Even though transportation-related events make up a majority of workplace deaths in the state every year, Lamb and his business did not have basic safety precautions in place. OSHA repeatedly found that Lamb failed to require the use of traffic control devices, putting employees at risk among moving vehicles. Lamb's disregard for workplace safety cost four people their lives and immeasurable suffering for those who survived.
Were it not for labor advocates like yourself, Lynnway Auto Auction would only face $5,000 in fines if found guilty, $1,000 for each death, a tiny fraction of the business’s monthly profit. The message these minuscule fines sent could not be clearer: workers lost on the job due to dangerous conditions is just the cost of doing business in the Bay State. But, thanks to years of advocacy, we corrected this affront to worker dignity.
The Criminal Justice Reform bill that passed the spring of 2018 included updating Massachusetts corporate manslaughter law. MassCOSH and allies pushed hard for this reform after the needless deaths of Robert Higgins and Kelvin Mattocks, who drowned in a trench in Boston in 2016 after their employer repeatedly disregarded basic safety procedures.
The maximum penalty for corporate manslaughter is now a $250,000 fine. If found guilty, Lynnway Auto Auction would not face the small $5,000 in fines under previous law, but a quarter of a million dollars. The law goes even further for companies working on government contracts, debarring them from such work for up to 10 years. As for Lamb, he’s facing 20 years in prison per count, meaning one century of confinement according to Ryan.
This is real change. This is what happens when you mourn for the dead but fight like hell for the living. This is just another example of what we can do together to further the labor movement in our lifetime. Thank you for your support and commitment to workers’ rights.