Pleasanton Weekly

News - May 21, 2010

Castlewood management, union no closer to a deal

Another round of negotiations held Tuesday - lockout began Feb. 25

by Glenn Wohltmann

The stalemate between Castlewood Country Club and its locked-out workers continues despite another negotiation session Tuesday.

"The company did not accept our proposal, nor did they move back from theirs. They haven't responded to our proposal at all," said Nischit Hegde, spokeswoman for UNITEHERE! Local 2850.

In an interview with the Pleasanton Weekly, Hegde was asked at what point the union will give up, with workers moving on to other jobs.

She said union members are more committed than ever to getting a new contract.

"I'm reminded of what one of the workers said," Hegde explained. "Before the lockout, had they been allowed to vote, maybe some of them would be willing to lose their health care, but one workers says 'there's no way' they'd accept a contract after being locked out for almost 90 days that doesn't include affordable health care."

She said a lockout is different from a strike, in which a company can permanently replace workers.

"They cannot do that in a lockout. It's been almost 90 days and we're going to keep going," Hegde said. "The union is not busted. By law the workers are entitled to their jobs. What they have in place is a temporary work force."

She said "the workers picket nine times a week."

On a recent Friday, it seemed business as usual for the country club, with golfers playing on the course, and members walking by the strikers without a second glance.

An Alameda Superior Court judge recently blocked a request to have the strikers kicked off the property, when the club's attorney asked for a temporary restraining order on the grounds that golfers at the club need silence.

"They don't want to be reminded of the reason workers are struggling," Hedge said.

She said workers are "scraping by," but their resolve remains strong.

"They are relying on unemployment, they are relying on donations, many are relying on their savings," Hegde said.

The lockout began Feb. 25. Workers and club management are at odds over a $739 monthly increase in health benefits. The club's management recently added stipulations to allow the workers back inside.

While Castlewood management has remained mum, one of the locked-out workers has accused the union of playing rich versus poor because it is losing members.

Castlewood bartender Steve Frietas said he was shop steward for Local 2850 for 11 years. He sat on the negotiating committee but said he got kicked off by the union because he wanted to let the members vote on Castlewood's final proposal. Frietas said he had signatures on two separate petitions, but union President Wei Ling Huber refused to allow a vote.

"We would rather take the cut than be locked out of our jobs," he said.

And, he says, most of the workers wouldn't be forced to pay the full $739 a month, since only there are only "10 or 11 people" who need full family coverage, since many of the others have dual coverage -- medical insurance they also have from their husbands or wives.

Frietas said he's also tried to have the union decertified, but claims the union is keeping members in line by offering them $200 in cash and a gift card to help them buy groceries every week, even though most of the workers have other jobs. Frietas, who said he no longer supports the union, also said he hasn't been getting either the cash or the gift cards.

He's also upset with the name-calling being done by some of the locked-out workers.

"Sitting there calling names, that sounds like something the union used to do in the '60s and '70s," Frietas said.

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