Castlewood, union leaders meet again today on new contract offer

Lock-out averted as both sides go back to bargaining table

Castlewood Country Club and its hourly-workers' union will meet today to continue negotiations on a new three-year contract that so far the union has rejected.

Castlewood General Manager Jerry Olson said club negotiators and representatives of Unite Here! Local 2850 are meeting after a week-long cooling-off period.

The union that represents 57 part-time and full-time hourly workers at Castlewood had planned to picket the club after hearing that the workers would be locked out last Tuesday. That action was canceled when another negotiating session was scheduled.

"While no collective bargaining agreement has been agreed to, some progress was made during negotiations last Monday," said Nischit Hegde, a representative of Unite Here! Local 2850, the large Bay Area hotel and restaurant workers union that also covers Castlewood's unionized workforce of bartenders, kitchen helpers, waiters and other hourly employees.

"The lockout called by the Castlewood Country Club has been avoided and both parties agreed to continue negotiating," she added.

The union had planned to picket the country club after it rejected what the country club called its final contract offer, which included a wage freeze and, for the first time, employee contributions to their health plan for coverage beyond the individual employee.

The union's three-year contract with Castlewood expired in July 2008, but was extended by the club for another year. Despite numerous meetings between union representatives and Castlewood management, the two sides have not been able to settle on a new contract, leading to management's decision to.

"At the Castlewood Country Club in Pleasanton, members pay a $25,000 initiation fee and $600 monthly membership fee to play on landscaped golf courses and sip wine in a gourmet dining room while the club's cooks, waiters, dishwashers and housekeepers work hard to serve them," Hegde said. "Now the club's managers (want to) push through a contract proposal that would make health care unaffordable for workers' families."

A union press release issued Monday also quoted a union member's concern over the lockout:

"I am very scared of the company's proposal because our family is very dependent on the medical insurance we receive from the company," Carlos Hernandez, a five-year dinner cook at the club was quoted as saying. "My wife had her gallbladder removed two weeks ago and without the surgery, I do not know what she would have done. If I had to pay $739 a month for family medical insurance (as the club's new contract specifies), I would not be able to afford it and my wife and two children would lose coverage."

Hegde said Hernandez and his family are among the 67 dependents that would potentially lose their health coverage due to Castlewood's proposal.

She said Unite Here Local 2850 workers have been negotiating with the company since last September and have offered management a reasonable contract proposal that would, according to Local 2850's calculations, reduce labor costs for the company by approximately 8 percent in the first year, including a one- year wage freeze, an "extremely modest wage increase (just 10 cents an hour)" for the following year and an increase in worker's monthly insurance premiums for a cheaper plan with fewer benefits.

Hegde said the union has also filed an unfair labor practice charge against the club with the National Labor Relations Board, alleging intimidation. The claim states that Castlewood "has tried to scare its employees into quitting their jobs."

"Workers are scared," Hegde said

She said one worker, Petra Medina, a Castlewood maintenance worker, told her that club managers said "that if we didn't accept the company's proposal, we will all be locked out."

"Nobody wants to let the club take away our families' health care, but a lot of my co-workers are terrified of ending up without a job in this economy if we fight back," Medina said.

But Steve Frietas, who's been a bartender at Castlewood for the last 16 years and was the union's shop steward for 10 years, said he talked management into backing away from a pay cut that it had initially proposed. Wages would still be frozen for the year, but would stay the same. Management also agreed to wage increases of 10 cents an hour in the second year, 30 cents in the third year of a new three-year contact.

He also said that although new health care premiums would increase according to the schedule, as they already have for the nonunion employees, Castlewood agreed to kick in $40 a month for couples and $80 a month for families for the Local 2850. Management also agreed to lower to 28 hours the work week required to qualify for Castlewood-sponsored health care from the 32 hours it had proposed, which meant more part-time employees would continue to be eligible for the benefit.

Frietas told the Pleasanton Weekly that he polled union workers at Castlewood and found that a majority do not want to go on strike. They are willing to accept the club's contract offer in order to keep their jobs. Even if they find they can't afford the higher heath care premiums, Frietas says they could continue working while they look for other jobs that offer more money or less expensive benefits, or both.

But he said he was rebuffed in his appeal to union leaders to sign the contract offer.

Frietas, a Vietnam veteran with two Purple Hearts, added: "I'll be 62 next month and I've been at Castlewood for 12 years. This is a country club, not a hotel or big restaurant where employee relations can be strained. We're like family here. We don't want to be unemployed; we don't want to be locked out without income for two or three months. Our union leaders should listen to us, too."

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Like this comment
Posted by Jackson
a resident of Livermore
on Feb 16, 2010 at 3:25 pm

It seems that the picture has been drawn of the members of Castlewood lining the high life at the expense of the working man.
I wonder why it hasn't been mentioned that the members fully fund all of the costs of the club, including paying for better benefit packages than the members receive at their jobs in which many work more than 60 hour per week.
I do beleive that there will be a wait list when it is shown that a you can get 100% medical, dental & vision for working 20 hours per week... oh, you get free meals too.
If I get my pink slip notice where do you think I'll apply my skill set...?

Like this comment
Posted by waiting
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 16, 2010 at 3:49 pm

Let's see... full medical, dental & vision benefits plus $12.50 an hour with an automatic 15% tip??!!!
I work in the restaurant business and beleive me, that's a screamin' deal!! Try busting your hump for minimum wage, tips and NO BENEFITS!!!!! I have also seen the level of service at castlewood, so Im in for a venue change, promotion and a raise!

Like this comment
Posted by ca94566
a resident of Castlewood
on Feb 16, 2010 at 3:58 pm

"At the Castlewood Country Club in Pleasanton, members pay a $25,000 initiation fee and $600 monthly membership fee to play on landscaped golf courses and sip wine in a gourmet dining room while the club's cooks, waiters, dishwashers and housekeepers work hard to serve them," Hegde said. "Now the club's managers (want to) push through a contract proposal that would make health care unaffordable for workers' families."

This statement is offensive and untrue!

Companies I'm aware of have always had employee contribution for part of their health insurance. That’s the standard! I think its outrages that these jobs are not treated the same way.

When Unions came into being, they were to protect classes of jobs/employees that companies abused. (Truckers, children in coal mines, children in the garment factories, etc.)

That was before a Standard wage, OSHA and a labor board. Unions today, in California, in my opinion are archaic.

Like this comment
Posted by Cholo
a resident of Livermore
on Feb 16, 2010 at 4:21 pm

I'm delighted that there is a cooling off period. Makes sense!

I strongly support unions.

For those of you that don't support unions, don't join one...problem solved!


Like this comment
Posted by Klisvak
a resident of Castlewood
on Feb 16, 2010 at 7:15 pm

If the employees do not like what Castlewood has to offer, they should move on and seek a better alternative. In 90% of cases, employees change jobs to improve their income and the benefits. Castlewood employees and their Union prefer to complain, critique and do nothing. Castlewood needs to part with the Union concept.

Like this comment
Posted by Mary
a resident of Birdland
on Feb 16, 2010 at 7:50 pm

I could not agree more with you. What other country club has a union for the food service workers? It is not needed, please follow through with getting rid of the union.

Like this comment
Posted by Puck
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 16, 2010 at 9:25 pm

If there is a lockout the employees need to point the finger at their own union for not letting them vote on the offer that they requested to vote on. Of course the union people really don't care if there is a lockout since they will continue to receive their full wages while the employees will be the ones who suffer without any income.

Like this comment
Posted by Dark Corners of Town
a resident of Country Fair
on Feb 17, 2010 at 11:12 pm

Unite Here Local 11 has the same challenges with Disney. (Web Link)

Like this comment
Posted by Terry
a resident of Highland Oaks
on Feb 18, 2010 at 2:12 pm

I would hope that both sides can find common ground.

I am for the families and for Castlewood.

I am for the people in our Community to get beyond the difficult economic times that we face today.

I hope that a solution can be found soon.

Like this comment
Posted by Marco
a resident of Castlewood
on Feb 18, 2010 at 4:06 pm

I'm a server at Castlewood Club. I'm watching my coworkers faces who were scared because they were told they would lose their job if they didn't accept the company's proposal. But I don't think it's good to take away the benefits from the workers children. I don't think the members are hearing from all the workers. They should ask us if we can afford give up our benefits.

Like this comment
Posted by Gabriel Castlewood CC server
a resident of Castlewood
on Feb 18, 2010 at 4:28 pm

I'm willing to pay something that I can afford, not 739 dollars. I don't even make that much money sometimes. I really like this job, and don't like all the conflict. I just want things to be o.k. I think all the members should listen to both sides. I like working for the members and I hope they understand.

Like this comment
Posted by Jess GOmez
a resident of Mission Park
on Feb 18, 2010 at 4:33 pm

I believe the employees have the right. They should be heard and given their rights. The club has no right to take their rights away. As you can see they really need their jobs, they need to keep their families in good health.

Like this comment
Posted by Francisca
a resident of Castlewood
on Feb 18, 2010 at 4:33 pm

My name is Francisca and I am a full-time maintenance worker at Castlewood Country Club. All we are trying to get is a fair contract so that we are able to continue working and that way we will be able to support our families and not be depending on public agencies for medical assistance.

I have two daughters attending school now and am the sole support for them. If i lose my job or the health coverage it will be very hard for me to keep a roof over our heads and food on our tables. Please let us keep our jobs and keep health insurance affordable for our families. We are already offering to contribute to pay $175 for medical insurance, but the Club wants us to pay $739 per month. That is more than 40% of my pay for a month and i can not afford it. We also already offered that part-time workers won't get medical anymore. Please listen to all the workers.

Like this comment
Posted by Lydia G.
a resident of Downtown
on Feb 18, 2010 at 10:59 pm

This is not about "the unions" - this is about people and families. These are tough times, and we need to support all those families who currently have jobs so they can continue to provide for their families. Can you imagine living in Pleasanton on wages earned from working a job at Castlewood Country Club? Not easy.

Like this comment
Posted by puck
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 19, 2010 at 10:20 am

You live where you can afford to live based on your wages (and these employees are well above minimum wage). If your wages will not let you live in Pleasanton then you go to a city where you can support yourself on the income you make. There are places and homes that I would like to live but my wages may not allow it so I don't. No one is going to lose their job if the union comes to their senses and lets the employees vote on a contract. The money paid for these employees health benefits is not sustainable over the long term.

Like this comment
Posted by Arthur Wong
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 19, 2010 at 6:51 pm

This contract is not only about a health care insurance. Castlewood country club is trying to take away from the employees any single right that they already obtain in older bargains. For example waiters will be required to cut vegetables and cook if it is consider necessary by the management. Of course there is going to be always an emergency if the management do not schedule people. Another example would be that if one of the managers consider that someone deserves a raise, that person could get it, even if the true reason is that they get along with that employee. In this case Jerry Olsen and Tom Hunt would be very happy, their friends could start making more money even if they don't deserved.

Like this comment
Posted by Klisvak
a resident of Castlewood
on Feb 20, 2010 at 7:28 am

After many years of paying and supporting the Castlewood employees and their families over 30 members surrendered their membership, because they could not afford it. None of them picketed, wrote letters or pleaded for understanding. They have come to a conclusion that their income can not support their current life style and made a decision to leave. All of them lost a thousands of dollars of their deposits.

Like this comment
Posted by Ashley
a resident of Downtown
on Feb 22, 2010 at 10:08 pm

Arthur Wong,

It's true that is what Jerry Olson and Tom Hunt love to do. This is their dream, Protect their "friends".

Like this comment
Posted by Dismayed
a resident of Rosepointe
on Feb 23, 2010 at 3:57 pm

Union employees need to start contributing to their medical, but not ALL in one year. A year that they will also receive no raise. Castlewood is willing to pay 100% for single employees. Why is that?? They should ALL contribute something. I don't think any of the union employees want to strike or get locked out, but how does Castlewood expect the employee with a family to pay over $700./mo. and get no raise. GET REAL!

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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