Country Country Club workers plan picket after step towards victory

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Castlewood workers protest on the one-year anniversary of the lockout
PHOTO BY BROOKE ROBERTSON

Workers at Castlewood Country Club in Pleasanton, represented by UNITE HERE Local 2850, received a favorable decision from Administrative Law Judge Clifford Anderson of the National Labor Relations Board on Monday. He found that the club owes all 61 union workers two years of back pay-- and their jobs back.

"For the workers it feels like a relief to be believed in some way," said Local 2850 organizer Sarah Norr. "The workers have been saying for two years that Castlewood was not really trying to reach a compromise."

The food service workers and janitors of Local 2850 at Castlewood haven’t worked in two years. Instead, they picket the club and march. But they’re not on strike-- they would love to go back to work. They’re on lockout.

In Feb. 2010, the club tried to hike up their health care costs, significantly increase the hours per week that would be considered full-time, and cut pay. After heated negotiations, the club refused to allow workers to return to their jobs and hired non-union replacements.

Negotiations have continued since, but according to Norr, they haven't been productive. In Aug. 2010 the management presented a new set of proposals, which Norr called worst than the first. It would have allowed for the club to keep on the temporary workers that had replaced the union workers during the lockout and do away with seniority in scheduling and layoffs, as well as allowed for increased subcontracting. That was when the union filed a complaint with the NLRB.

In Aug. 2011, the General Counsel of the NLRB issued a decision that there was sufficient evidence to prosecute Castlewood for violating federal labor law. After hearing nine days of testimony for various stakeholders on both sides, Judge Anderson ruled that the alleged violations had occured.

He found that the lockout was illegal, and recommended that the NLRB order Castlewood to reinstate the locked-out workers and pay them two years of back wages and benefits.

Jerry Olson, Castlewood Country Club’s general manager, told us that the club hasn’t decided yet if they will be complying with the judge’s order.

“We just received the ruling today in the mail, and we’re considering all our options,” Olson said Aug. 21. “We certainly respect the administrative law judge.”

“We were surprised,” said Olson. “We expected to win the case.”

"It’s important for folks to understand that this doesn’t guarantee that its all over," Norr said. "Castlewood does have the option of asking for a review of the case from the NLRB in Washington, DC." Such a review could take years, prolonging the lockout but also increasing the amount of back pay the club would need to pay if they lose.

Workers plan to picket the club Aug. 22 at 5pm, celebrating their victory and demanding that the club comply.

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

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