Lockout at Castlewood club

February 26, 2010

PLEASANTON, Calif.--Management at the Castlewood Country Club has locked out 65 food-beverage and maintenance workers on February 25.

The workers, represented by UNITE HERE Local 2850, have been in negotiations with management since November 2009, but General Manager Jerry Olson, under the direction of board President Jim Clouser, has proposed that employees pay $739.08 a month out of pocket for family health insurance.

This is the second time in two weeks that the company has announced a lockout of the workers unless they accept the club's proposal. According to the union's president Wei-Ling Huber, "The first lockout date was avoided for a 'cooling off' period at the end of which the Club presented the Union with a proposal that was in many ways worse than their previous one."

The workers planned a picket Thursday morning to protest the company's unjust actions.

"I would no longer be able to afford to cover my family on my health care," said Marisol Gil, a banquet server who's worked at Castlewood for five years. "I fear that because I only work when there are parties, I might not get enough hours to qualify for my own coverage."

What you can do

Join the picket line at 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. Meet us at the corner of Foothill Boulevard and Castlewood Drive in Pleasanton. Call 510-219-6347 or e-mail [email protected] if you have any questions and to RSVP.

Park at Centennial Community Park. Take 580 east from Oakland, go south on 680, take the Castlewood Drive exit, and make a left at Sunol Boulevard. Make a left at Mission Drive, and you will be there at the park.

Call general manager Jerry Olson at 925-485-2232 and board president Jim Clouser at 925-837-8969, and tell them you support the workers in their struggle to maintain medical coverage for themselves and their families. You can also sign a petition supporting the workers' demands.

Most Castlewood workers can't afford the increase, which comes out to more than 35 percent of a full-time maintenance worker's gross wages. Affordable health insurance is the most important factor in employees' compensation, especially since the average wage is $12.50 an hour.

Furthermore, the state of California is slashing funding for public benefits and is considering capping or eliminating the Healthy Families children's insurance program. So if Castlewood workers lose their benefits, they can't count on a safety net, and their children may go without health care entirely.

"I don't want to go on welfare programs when, for 20 years, I have been able to take care of my family," said Martin Tostado, a pantry cook at the club. "We are willing to pay something reasonable but locking us out is not right."

During negotiations, the union offered many concessions in order to strike a deal with management. Workers offered to pay $175 per month for family medical on a cheaper plan with lower benefits, which would reduce the club's labor costs by 5 percent. In addition, workers agreed to a one-year wage freeze and an extremely low wage increase (10 cents an hour) for the following year.

Despite these concessions, management is committed to force through their proposals by threatening a lockout. According to a letter by the club's board of directors in the Pleasanton Weekly, "[Management's] choices in reacting to the current union negotiating situation appear to boil down to two options--either (1) continue indefinitely according to the union's current contract negotiations approach, or (2) lock out the current employees."

The letter goes onto say, "if [the club] instead take the second option, we can attempt to impose at least some economic leverage on the union's negotiating position and avoid the union's apparent belief that its threats of continuing delays, opposition and future job actions will change the club's own good-faith economic positions."

As the club holds firm in its stance, many workers are understandably worried by the threat of a lockout. The union is currently appealing to the members of the country club to convince the board of directors to reconsider their decisions. Over the weekend a petition signed by the employees was sent out as well as a Valentine's Day card with heart-touching testimonials from workers.

Community pressure and labor solidarity is urgently needed to pressure the company. We must give support and solidarity to the workers in their struggle for justice.

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