Pleasanton Country Club May Have To Pay Dearly For Illegally Locking Out Union Staff

LABOR | An administrative judge for the National Labor Relations Board has ordered Pleasanton’s swank Castlewood Country Club to reimburse union staff locked out for over 2 years up to $3.4 million in back wages and benefits stemming from what the judge ruled an unfair bargaining practices by the Tri-Valley resort.

The ruling handed down Aug. 17 is a major victory for the small cadre of locked out worker many of whom earn a paltry $12 in hourly wages while bussing tables and serving club members lunch and drinks.

Judge Clifford Anderson also found Castlewood management engaged in unfair bargaining with union members of UNITE HERE Local 2850. Anderson’s ruling contains a spate of blistering findings against Castlewood’s general manager Jerry Olson and a lawyer for the club who surreptitiously attempted to alter notes taken during a bargaining session with union representatives and a string of comments by club members asserting union membership would never be allowed at the high-priced country club.

In December 2009, the judge found Olson told employees “they could quit their jobs if they did not like [management’s] bargaining proposals.” Three months later, according to the ruling, a Castlewood manager threatened an employee with discipline for distributing union literature. It also found management engaged in bad faith bargaining in August 2010 while it employed replacement workers and no longer sought an agreement to end the lockout with union employees.

“I shall recommend that [the] respondent be ordered to make whole all locked-out employees for any loss of pay or benefits suffered from the lockout maintained from Aug. 10, 2010 onward,” wrote Anderson. Castlewood can appeal the decision to the NLRB in Washington, D.C within 28 days.

A lead representative for the union, Wei-Ling Huber testified Olson said, “I don’t know what the legal definition of impasse is, but I think, you know, we’re there. And we’re just wasting time over these issues, maybe it’s time for employees to strike or quit.” The response, according to many over the many months was not uncommon for Olson, only at Castlwood since 2009 and known for spells of anti-union and conservative zealotry. The union asserts the lockout is solely based upon health care reform.

Meanwhile, the over two-year lockout encompassed roughly 60 low-wage earners including cooks, bartenders, housekeepers, food servers, busboys and dishwashers, most of whom could be seen picketing on the side of the road most every weekend banging a drum and chanting union slogans. According to Friday’s findings, Olson’s comments may have been the prevailing wisdom among dues-paying country club members. “As far as I am concerned I would like to NOT see any of the picketing former employees returned to Castlewood. I would not trust any of them to serve my food or drink. The few who are not in this fight would be welcomed back,” said one member to management.

Another, noting Castlewood was the only unionized club in Northern California, said, “This is unacceptable and a great detriment to further membership in our club.” While, yet another member said, “I am really hoping there is some way that Castlewood can rid themselves of the union staff permanently,” according to the judge’s findings.

The judge also found an attorney for Castlewood, Robert Hulteng, altered personal notes that significantly minimized his comments during a bargaining session in August 2010. “I also find his testimony lacks credibility as a result of the circumstances presented. Counsel Hulteng, as he testified, refreshed his recollection with these notes and yet his memory of altering them was not also refreshed. I find this fact is persuasive evidence that his memory of the events of this session were dim indeed and may not be relied on.”