Pleasanton Weekly

News - April 16, 2010

Banquet groups leaving Castlewood due to labor strife

Foothill juniors move prom to Livermore

by Jeb Bing

Two major Pleasanton organizations have cancelled their annual luncheons at Castlewood Country Club so that their participants don't have to cross picket lines set up by locked-out union workers.

The Foothill High junior class prom also scheduled for Castlewood next Saturday has been moved to the Robert Livermore Center in Livermore to avoid the labor strife.

Wednesday's 23rd annual "Salute to Partnerships" luncheon by the Pleasanton Partnerships in Education (PPIE) Foundation was switched to the Pleasanton Hilton Hotel. Debi Covello, executive director, said more than 150 attended the luncheon, paying the same $40 a plate charge that was listed on the invitation to the luncheon at Castlewood.

"We have no issues with Castlewood and they were very nice in letting us out of our contract so that we could go elsewhere," Covello said.

The fourth annual Community of Character luncheon scheduled for May 6 also has been moved out of Castlewood. Ellen Pensky, who is in charge of the event, said the move was made to avoid any concerns over holding the luncheon during the club's labor dispute.

Although Castlewood management has scheduled a negotiating session later this month with UniteHere! Local 2850, Pensky said no one could assure her that the current stand-off between the two sides would be ended by the time of the Community of Character luncheon.

The cancellations came after political, church and civic leaders asked Castlewood to engage again in negotiations with the union. The Pleasanton City Council also approved a resolution asking the club to end the lockout and resume negotiations.

The union represents Bay Area hotel and restaurant workers and also 61 bartenders, kitchen helpers, waiters and other unionized hourly employees at Castlewood. It rejected a new contract offer from Castlewood that would freeze wages while also adding monthly fees for those with family health care policies, which have been paid up to now by Castlewood. Castlewood said it would continue to provide single-member insurance coverage without charge, but others would have to pay $739 a month for family coverage.

With the average wage of union workers at Castlewood now $12.52 an hour, the union said its workers could not afford the new premiums.

Larry Ferderbeck, a 10-year member of Castlewood, told the council that when he tried to engage Castlewood's board of directors on the issue to learn how it determines salaries and health care policies for employees, "I was told that this is not something where they want member input."

"I believe that the club's board and its negotiating team are disconnected from the membership and their interests and it will take multiple inputs from external people to get the board to become focused and to get back on the right track," Ferderbeck said.

"In my opinion, they (the Castlewood board) are not representing the best interest of the members," he added. "I think their egos have gotten caught up in the negotiations and something needs to get them focused on the current issues on the table and what's in the best interest of everybody."

Another speaker, Fred Norman, said the locked-out union workers at Castlewood need Pleasanton's help.

"When Katrina hit, the City Council helped the people of New Orleans," Norman said. "When Haiti was severely hurt by the recent earthquake, many Pleasantonians that I know helped the Haitians. Let us now help those in our local area. Let us at least give the Castlewood workers the opportunity to resume their contract negotiations."

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