More employees of Napa Valley dumpsite come forward with complaints over discrimination, unsafe working conditions

The complaints allege degrading treatment toward Latino workers.|

Former and current employees of the Upper Valley Disposal and Recycling Services and Clover Flat Landfill in Napa County filed more than 15 civil rights complaints against the company in recent weeks.

The complaints, filed with the California Civil Rights Department, allege the company has discriminated against Latino waste workers through unequal and degrading treatment, as well as exposure to environmental toxins.

Former St. Helena Mayor Geoff Ellsworth, who has repeatedly raised concerns about the landfill at public meetings and filed complaints at the local and state level, said the complaints include allegations of:

  • Unreasonable exposure to fires, contamination and toxic smoke without adequate training or protective equipment.
  • Unequal treatment based on racial background.
  • Degrading treatment by the company.

Other similar complaints have been filed with the California Division of Occupational Safety throughout this year and the Mexican Consulate in San Francisco, according to Ellsworth.

A customer service representative at Upper Valley Disposal Services said those there weren’t allowed.

Waste Connections, Inc. — the owner of Upper Valley Disposal Services since October — didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment about the recent worker complaints.

Jose Garibay Jr., a former Clover Flat worker — who, in February, filed a wrongful termination and retaliation complaint to the California Department of Labor — said he was the first former employee to step forward to call out the practices of the company. Now there are four former employees that have filed some type of complaint, he said, plus another 14 current employees who have done the same.

Garibay said many of the complaints have some connection to the 2020 Glass Fire. He and others were allegedly told to do post-fire cleanup at the landfill without adequate protective equipment or training.

Garibay’s original complaint alleged he was fired because he was attempting to correct the company’s unsafe environmental practices.

Ellsworth noted there were some parallels with the garbage workers’ complaints and efforts of farmworkers in Napa and Sonoma counties to obtain hazard pay and disaster insurance.

“These workers who manage most of the waste in the wine industry in the upper Napa Valley also need protection,” Ellsworth said.

Ellsworth said he hasn’t fully seen what Waste Connections will do since they acquired the company from the Pestoni family. But, he said, there’s a lot of accountability that needs to be taken. The working conditions haven’t changed because much of local management has remained in place, he added.

“What we’re hearing from workers is that it hasn’t necessarily became a better culture to work in because the management, much of it, is left over,” Ellsworth said.

You can reach Staff Writer Edward Booth at 707-521-5281 or

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