By Eric Louie, Pacific Media Workers Guild
Editor’s Note: A march in support of the locked-out workers will be held SATURDAY Feb. 25 at 9:30 a.m.at Bernal Avenue and Main Street in downtown Pleasanton.
February 24, 2012
Sergio Gonzalez thought no one would care when Castlewood Country Club locked out its service workers.
“I thought it was going to be us vs. the world,” said the 30-year-old banquet server.
Management had demanded that the 60-some workers who cooked, served, and washed dishes for the denizens of the exclusive golf and tennis club Pleasanton club pick up the costs for their own health care – more than $700 a month for family coverage for workers that average $12.50 and range from 16 to 172 a month.
But two years into the lockout, the workers not only enjoy the support of elected officials and religious leaders, but a new advocate: Occupy Oakland and Occupy San Francisco.
Occupy movement activists plan to converge on Castlewood’s manicured hills with the workers and their supporters Saturday.
The march kicks off at 9:30 a.m. at Bernal Avenue and Main Street in downtown Pleasanton.
The support of the group, which protests economic disparities nationwide, provides a welcome boost two years into the lockout, said Sarah Norr of Unite Here Hospitality Workers Union Local 2850. They are planning a peaceful event.
Management downplayed the importance of Occupy’s involvement.
“This is not a core issue of what Occupy was created for,” said Vintage Foster of AMF Media, a public relations firm hired by the club. The support means little since the supporters do not know the specifics of the negotiations, he said.
Club general manager Jerry Olson said the march is a sign the union is getting desperate. He said some clients have canceled since the lockout, although the club acquired new members and continues to turn a profit.
Eric Larsen, a member of the Occupy Oakland labor solidarity committee, said the group agreed to support Castlewood workers when they came to a meeting to make their case.
“Occupy Oakland supports all labor struggles to have decent pay and benefits,” he said.
“That’s what this country needs, people who stand up for what is right,” said Gonzalez, who sends part of his paycheck home to family in Mexico.
Besides larger actions like the two Port of Oakland closures, Occupy has also supported a march at Pacific Steel Casting in Berkeley where workers were laid off after an immigration audit, and demonstrated at American Licorice in Union City during their month-long strike.
The Castlewood dispute has been tense, with two dozen supporters arrested in June after they blocked access during a golf tournament.
The last contract ended in September 2009, with health care the main sticking point. The club then locked out the employees and hired scab replacements on Feb. 25, 2010.
Club officials said they must contend with rising health care costs, and that their last offer exceeds the regional average. They say they want work performance to be considered in addition to seniority in case of layoffs.
But union representatives say management has shown bad faith during the negotiations, pressing for the right to hire nonunion workers – a transparent bid to end collective bargaining.
The National Labor Relations Board agreed management had behaved unlawfully and ruled the club must ante up an estimated $1.7 million for the workers in back pay.
Norr said it could be months before the decision is affirmed, with a third and final hearing scheduled for March. A decision would be issued sometime after that, though it can also be appealed.