Country Club Could Owe $3.4 Million After NLRB Rules Lockout Illegal

Mike Elk

Castlewood Country Club workers, who have been on strike for over 900 days, finally earned a victory with the National Labor Relations Board.

Last year, In These Times report­ed that the Castle­wood Coun­try Club in Pleasan­ton, Calif. was bust­ing a union against its own finan­cial inter­ests. The lock­out of 61 food ser­vices work­ers, mem­bers of UNITE-HERE Local 2850, had cost the coun­try club hun­dreds of thou­sands in legal fees – plus rev­enue from 12 tour­na­ments can­celled due to pick­et­ing.

But Castle­wood has refused to budge for two years, and now it may have a mul­ti-mil­lion dol­lar bill to pay.

The Nation­al Labor Rela­tions Board (NLRB) has ruled that the club’s actions were ille­gal and rec­om­mend­ed that the work­ers be rein­stat­ed and paid back wages and ben­e­fits. These could amount to as much as $3.4 mil­lion, esti­mates UNITE-HERE, minus any­thing earned by the work­ers else­where dur­ing the lock­out. In his rul­ing, NLRB Admin­is­tra­tive Law Judge Clif­ford Ander­son wrote that the club had unlaw­ful­ly endeavor[ed] to frus­trate the bar­gain­ing process” out of ani­mus toward the Union and ani­mus to the locked out employ­ees who sup­port­ed the Union in bargaining.”

The rul­ing echoes what the union has said for two years: The com­pa­ny sim­ply refused to bar­gain in good faith. The cen­tral stick­ing point was the company’s demand that the work­ers shoul­der health­care costs – which the union esti­mates could be as much as $850 a month, approx­i­mate­ly 50 per­cent of the work­ers’ incomes. The union mem­bers made a coun­terof­fer that would have saved the coun­try club mon­ey over the long run, accord­ing to UNITE HERE, but the com­pa­ny refused.

We’ve been say­ing for two years that Castle­wood wasn’t giv­ing us a fair chance to get our jobs back. Now Judge Ander­son is say­ing the same thing. I hope this will be a wake-up call to the golfers that they need to stop stalling and put us back to work,” says Castle­wood cook Car­los Mejia.

Accord­ing to club mem­ber Lar­ry Fer­der­ber, he and the oth­er 750-plus mem­bers were kept in the dark about the large amount of debt the club was incur­ring from the lock­out. Fer­der­ber says he was threat­ened with expul­sion from the club for bring­ing up the mat­ter. He charges that real impe­tus for the 2010 lock­out was the vehe­ment­ly anti-union stance of the new pres­i­dent of the board, Jim Clouser.

Now that each of the coun­try club’s equi­ty-hold­ing mem­bers is on the line for a por­tion of the back pay, Fer­d­berder thinks that the mem­bers may final­ly pres­sure the board end the lock­out. For two years we have nev­er had a meet­ing of the mem­bers with the board to dis­cuss the options regard­ing this lock­out and see what to do. The mem­bers are clam­or­ing for that now,” says Ferdberder.

The club has 28 days from the rul­ing to either appeal or agree to pay the work­ers. Castle­wood Coun­try Club Mem­ber­ship Direc­tor Jami Rodriquez did not respond to request for comment.

The union remains cau­tious. We’re thrilled about the deci­sion, but we know we could still have a long fight in front of us,” says Castle­wood jan­i­tor Fran­cis­ca Car­ran­za. We’ll be here for as long as it takes to get our jobs back and win a fair con­tract with health­care for our kids. We know peo­ple in the com­mu­ni­ty will stand behind us, just like they have over the past two years.”

Mike Elk wrote for In These Times and its labor blog, Work­ing In These Times, from 2010 to 2014. He is cur­rent­ly a labor reporter at Politico.
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