After 3-Year "David and Goliath" Struggle, Country Club Workers Win Secure Jobs, Family Health Care
PLEASANTON, CA – After a dogged three-year battle – including an illegal lockout that lasted longer than the siege of Leningrad – food service workers at Castlewood Country Club won a great contract that provides job security, affordable family health insurance, raises, and a signing bonus.
On February 13, the workers – members of UNITE HERE Local 2850 – voted 44-1 to approve the deal.
"So many people told us that dishwashers and waitresses couldn’t win against millionaires," said server Jeanette Cardenas. "But we’ve learned that it doesn’t matter who you are, if you stay strong and you’re on the side of justice."
Castlewood locked the workers out in February 2010, pressuring them to pay far more for family health care. The workers returned to their jobs in October 2012 after a National Labor Relations Board judge found the lockout illegal, but contract negotiations continued through the winter.
Under the new contract, workers will pay $225 per month for family health care, the same amount the union proposed before the lockout began. Workers’ contribution will decrease to $150 per month in the last year of the contract. The deal also includes raises, strong seniority rights and protections against subcontracting – which Castlewood proposed eliminating during the lockout – and a substantial signing bonus.
"I’ve worked at Castlewood for 18 years," said cook Carlos Mejia. "I just wanted my son to keep the health care he’s always had. I never imagined we’d have to fight for three years for that, but I’m so glad he can go to the doctor again."
With the contract resolved, UNITE HERE Local 2850 has called off its boycott of Castlewood and is urging clients who canceled their events during the labor dispute to return.
"This isn’t just our victory," said janitor Francisca Carranza. "So many people in the community, political leaders, pastors and other workers marched with us. Now we hope workers everywhere see this and understand that you don’t have to give up everything you’ve worked for. You can stand up for your family and win."
Castlewood Country Club food service workers, members of UNITE HERE Local 2850, enjoyed stable jobs with free family health care for many years. In the fall of 2009, Castlewood proposed raising workers’ share of family health care costs to $739 a month – over 40% of the average worker’s wage.
The workers rejected the proposal, but offered to pay $225 per month for family health care and to continue negotiating amicably. Instead, Castlewood locked them out on February 25, 2010. Castlewood then urged its employees to decertify their union, but the workers voted 41-17 to remain represented by the union.
Six months into the lockout, Castlewood made new proposals that were substantially worse than its original offer. The proposals would have stripped away seniority and job security protections, allowed unlimited subcontracting of workers’ jobs, made it optional for workers to pay union dues, and increased the cost of family health care even further. The union filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board.
Throughout the lockout, workers maintained daily pickets in front of Castlewood’s golf course, and coordinated dozens of larger actions. They were joined by political leaders, local clergy, and Pleasanton neighbors. They also organized a successful boycott of the Club and a high-profile civil disobedience action. The story – of low-wage workers fighting back against the illegal pressure tactics of a high-end golf club – drew national attention.
On August 17, 2012, NLRB Administrative Law Judge Clifford Anderson found that Castlewood had maintained an unlawful lockout for the previous two years. Anderson found that Castlewood had bargained in bad faith and that its bargaining proposals were motivated by animus toward the union.
On October 16, 2012, Castlewood ended the lockout. 46 of the 61 locked out workers returned to their jobs. Castlewood and the union continued to bargain for a new contract.
On February 13, 2013, the workers voted to ratify a new three-year contract. Under the deal, workers will pay $225 per month for family health care – the same amount the union proposed at the beginning of the lockout. Workers’ contribution will decrease to $150 per month in the last year of the contract. The contract also includes strong seniority language and protections against subcontracting, raises, and a substantial signing bonus.
With the lockout over and the contract resolved, UNITE HERE Local 2850 and Castlewood workers ended their boycott of the Club and urged clients to return. They also asked the NLRB to drop its prosecution of Castlewood.