Pleasanton Weekly

News - April 9, 2010

City Council asks Castlewood to end union lockout

3-1 vote approves resolution asking that country club re-open negotiations

by Jeb Bing

Locked-out hourly union workers at Castlewood Country Club loudly applauded a 3-1 vote by the Pleasanton City Council Tuesday night calling on the management at Castlewood Country Club to re-open negotiations and allow worked to resume their jobs.

Councilwoman Cindy McGovern, who lives near the country club, recused herself from voting on the resolution.

The action came on the 41st day of the lockout, which was imposed by the country club after representatives of the UniteHere! Local 2850 union rejected Castlewood's "final" contract offer. The union represents Bay Area hotel and restaurant workers and also 61 bartenders, kitchen helpers, waiters and other unionized hourly employees at Castlewood.

The resolution was drafted at the request of the council March 16 when 25 of the locked out workers appealed for help in reopening talks with Castlewood management.

Councilman Jerry Thorne, who was out of town at the time of the March meeting, cast the lone vote against the resolution. He objected to language it contains calling the lockout a blight on Pleasanton's reputation and also supporting the union's demand that its members be allowed to return to work.

"I don't disagree that we need to do what we can to encourage negotiations between the two parties, but this resolution looks like we're taking sides," Thorne said.

He also objected to the council's favorable vote on the resolution without hearing from Castlewood management.

"I'm disappointed that we haven't heard the other side of the story," Thorne said. "No one from Castlewood is here tonight and their views of this situation are not contained in the reports prepared by city staff."

"It's important to note that a lockout is management's strategy in a labor dispute whereas a strike is the union's strategy," Thorne said. "If this was a strike, would we approve a similar resolution? I'm concerned that we are taking sides."

But Mayor Jennifer Hosterman said she has met with the club's General Manager Jerry Olson and others, making it clear that the resolution would be on Tuesday night's council agenda and inviting them to attend.

Councilwoman Cheryl Cook-Kallio said she has placed three calls to the general manager's office in the last two weeks. None has been returned.

Thirteen speakers addressed the council Tuesday night--most of them members of the union--among an estimated 50 who attended the council meeting. Several also spoke as members of the two Catholic churches in Pleasanton who said church leaders had sent a letter to Castlewood managers asking that negotiations be re-opened. As of Tuesday, they said, the church had received no response from Castlewood management.

Although some have complained that the Pleasanton council has no business involving itself in Castlewood Country Club affairs because the facility is outside the city limits, Hosterman disagreed.

She pointed out that the council and others on the city staff and on city committees and commissions frequently deal with issues in unincorporated areas near the city, including Happy Valley, Sunol and roadways and traffic concerns on the city's periphery.

"We always try to be responsive," Hosterman said.

Councilman Matt Sullivan agreed.

"They say you can judge a community by the way it treats its most disadvantaged and least powerful," he said. "This is our opportunity to do the right thing."

"I have met with the workers and union representatives and walked the picket line with them," he added. "All they want to do it to return to work and negotiate in good faith. Anytime there is injustice in our front yard or back yard, we are compelled to do something."

He continued: "This is not typical of the issues we usually discuss as a council. I'm glad to see so many from Pleasanton who have come out tonight to speak. It does my heart good to see this."

Wei Ling Huber, president of Local 2850, thanked the council for listening to union members. She said employees at Castlewood have had union representation since the 1970s and have never before been involved in a labor dispute there.

"This time it was different," she told the council. "The (country club's) bargaining committee came in and made 65 proposals, mostly take-aways. We met again on Dec. 23 when we were given management's final offer. We came back on Feb. 26 with a union offer that was $1,000 cheaper than what the country club had offered, but still it was rejected."

"This morning I received an email that management would agree to meet with us again on April 23," she said.

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