NLRB Issues Complaint Saying Lockout at Pleasanton Country Club is Illegal

Sept. 5, 2011 | Union workers at Pleasanton’s prestigious Castlewood County Club have been locked out exactly 556 days, but charges of an unlawlful work action against struggling employees could resolve the dispute by the end of the year.

The complaint lodged by the Naional Labor Relations Board general counsel charges the lockout forced upon over 60 employees by the swanky resort has been illegal since August 2010. A hearing before an administrative law judge in Oakland is set for Nov. 7.

Unite Here, which represents the locked out workers, believes a favorable ruling could recoup as much as $1.7 million in back wages for employees who are living off personal savings and donations to a union fund.

The dispute began in February 2010 when management cited dwindling revenues and membership. Castlewood members pay an initial $20,000 fee along with a monthly fee of over $600. Many of the locked out workers are food preparers, servers and bartenders who average just $12-per-hour. Management then proposed a steep increase in workers’ the amount they pay for health care–rising to a monthly premium of over $700.

The proposal led to further confrontations between workers and management led by Jerry Olson, the club’s general manager. Union members describe Olson as a fiscally conservative zealot bent on destroying labor relations with its organized employees.

The union asked its members to protest last Saturday morning in their uniforms and declaring to management they were ready to return to work. It is unlikely the offer will be well-received by management, but not all of the club’s wealthy members support the stance against employees, many of whom, have served them drinks and meals over the years.

For much of the past 18 months, the sight of protesting union workers chanting into bullhorns and banging drums has been a part of the golfing experience for members of the club. Union members say not all of them support management’s position. A few members have offered to contribute small amounts of monetary assistance, they say, along with delivering food and cold drinks for demonstrating employees.

Most members though would rather ignore the labor spectacle played out regularly on the back of the course’s front nine. One Sunday earlier this year, it was obvious members riding in golf cart took circuitious routes around protesters while taking pains to avoid attracting their wrath.

The NLRB’s complaint asserts Castlewood’s lockout became illegal in August 2010 when it prososed new guidelines and continually delayed conferring with the union. One of management’s desires is to gain more rights to hire non-union workers in the future. The union believes the request shows Castlewood’s dispute with its employees is not about money, but about breaking the union.