We are in one of the worst recessions in our nation's history. Many people have lost their jobs, their health insurance, even their homes. The people of Pleasanton haven't been immune to this and many of our residents and businesses are suffering. Our city and school district budgets have been cut, teachers have lost their jobs and city spending has been curtailed.
But with all the terrible stories of this recession, some rise to level of near disbelief. I recently met with a group of hospitality and service workers from Castlewood Country Club and their union representatives from UniteHere! Local 2850. They had been in contract negotiations with the management of the Country Club since September 2009. Recognizing that the club has been having difficulty like other businesses, the workers agreed to a wage freeze and to contribute $225 per month to their family health insurance. For many years, the workers had agreed to accept lower wages in exchange for health insurance. Past management of Castlewood should be congratulated for offering health insurance to their employees in an era where it is indeed rare for workers such as these to have benefits.
But as reported in this paper, the club management decided recently that negotiations were not going well, made a draconian final offer that would require employees to pay the full $739 per month for family health insurance and then locked them out and brought in replacement workers. For workers who make on average $12.53 per hour -- or roughly $2,100 a month (before taxes) for a full-time employee -- this is prohibitive. The country club may indeed be suffering revenue declines during this economy, but its management has also refused to share the details of the club's finances with the union. They cite competitive salaries and benefits in other local businesses as justification for the offer. The workers have been locked out for over a month with no end in sight. Most of us have it pretty good in Pleasanton, but many of these workers are Pleasanton residents and cannot survive on what is being offered.
Members of the Pleasanton City Council have called on the management of Castlewood Country Club to end the lockout and re-enter negotiations in good faith with the union and the workers, but to no avail. Whatever your opinion on unions, we all owe humane working conditions and the benefits most of us now enjoy to union struggles of the past. In my opinion, it appears that management is trying to break the union. If you agree that this lockout should end, please call Castlewood Board President Jim Clouser at 837-8969 and tell him so. My request has been met with hostility and disregard.
As my friend and supporter of the Castlewood workers Fred Norman said, "the workers starve and golf continues." Maybe if enough of us call they will listen.
(Matt Sullivan is a member of the Pleasanton City Council.)