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Judge Issues Stop Work Order at Auto Mall Site

From Associated Press

Part of a major mall project was shut down by a judge after union members videotaped a 12-year-old boy driving a forklift and a 15-year-old boy climbing a concrete column without safety equipment.

State law prohibits minors from operating motorized equipment and people under the age of 16 from working in the building trades.

Judge Albert Maldonado issued a stop work order Thursday for a contractor and subcontractor at the $45-million Salinas Auto Mall project. After viewing the videotape, he said the alleged civil violations were “a matter of public safety, danger to life and limb.”

Contractor K.L. Wessel Construction of San Diego and a subcontractor, variously identified as Kirk Witherow, Kendall Kirk Construction and Kendall Commercial Framing, have until Aug. 13 to respond. A court hearing was set for Aug. 27.

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After hearing complaints of underage workers, members of the Carpenters Union, Local 605 in Marina visited the job site and saw a 16-year-old stacking lumber, they said.

Union members returned the next day and videotaped one youth climbing a column without safety equipment, as well as a 12-year-old operating a forklift.

Mike Goodjohn, project manager for K.L. Wessel Construction, said he had no comment. But Tony Lombardo, an attorney for the auto mall, which is not being sued, said Wessel Construction has been targeted by the carpenters union.

“They’re not running a child labor shop out there,” Lombardo said. “The irony is that a dad brings his kid to work on the weekend instead of letting him do video games, and he gets in big trouble.”

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