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Working In These Times

Monday, Sep 12, 2011, 11:00 am

Labor Charges Filed in Castlewood Club Lockout

BY Rose Arrieta

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A federal labor board says the 18-month lockout of service workers at the elite Castlewood Country Club in Pleasanton, California, is illegal

The National Labor Relations Board issued a complaint to an administrative law judge on August 26, charging management with unlawfully locking out unionized workers since August 10 of last year because of their support for their union Unite Here! Local 2850.

A hearing has been set for November 7.

In part, the complaint states that Castlewood management locked out the workers "in order to deny the Locked Out Employees the right to return to their former positions of employment because the Locked Out Employees joined and/or supported the Union, and to discourage employees from engaging in Union activities."

Congressional Progressive Caucus: Francisca from Valerie Lapin on Vimeo.
A Castlewood worker speaks at a town hall meeting in Oakland hosted by Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Nancy Pelosi and others.

The club plans to fight the charges, but if the issue is settled in the union’s favor, the workers would return to their jobs with back pay reinstated – which could amount to $1.7 million.

A Unite Here! spokeswoman says that the process could drag on a year or two. This could increase the debt quite a bit. The club is losing money to keep the workers locked out, as ITT reported here.

The Unite Here Hospitality Workers Union Local 2850 covers some 60 of the club's hospitality workers including cooks, servers and dishwashers.

The worker contract ended September 2009 and the lockout officially began February 25, 2010, after a disagreement with management over the club's health insurance plan. The club then hired temp workers.

A series of proposals were issued by the club, which insisted that the workers accept them. The club delayed bargaining and refused to meet more frequently. The NLRB charged that the lockout became illegal once those proposals were made.

Workers say the club really wants to get rid of the union. Among the proposals is the right to hire nonunion workers.

According to the Contra Costa Times, club general manager Jerry Olson declined to discuss specifics of the ruling. He said the same allegations were brought up in August 2010 and were dismissed. He said the club is confident the outcome of the November 7 hearing will turn out the same.

Demonstrations have taken place almost daily since the lockout.

Carlos Hernandez, 45, told the Contra Costa Times: "I want to go back to work because it's unjust what they've done here. If we have to be here longer, we will be, but I would love for it to end tomorrow." Hernandez, a cook, is married and the father of three.

Castlewood members pay $20,000 to join the club and $630 in monthly fees.

Rose Arrieta was born and raised in Los Angeles. She has worked in print, broadcast and radio, both mainstream and community oriented—including being a former editor of the Bay Area’s independent community bilingual biweekly El Tecolote. She currently lives in San Francisco, where she is a freelance journalist writing for a variety of outlets on social justice issues.

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