Bartenders, kitchen helpers, waiters and other hourly full-time and part-time employees, about 60 in all, were locked out of the country club on Feb. 25, 2010, in a dispute over health care costs.
Union members and others, including local officials, union leaders, members of a number of locals and even some ordinary people, came out on the cold winter morning for a march and rally near the club.
"One day longer, one day stronger," the crowd chanted, accompanied by a brass band, drums and union organizers with megaphones as it marched along the golf course on Castlewood Drive and Foothill Road while a handful of golfers played in the background, paying little attention.
For years, management and the union agreed on contracts that ranged from one to three years in length. The last three-year contract expired in July 2008 just as the recession began to hit hard; at Castlewood, some members left for financial reasons and the country club faced a budget deficit. Instead of initiating a new contract proposal 60 days in advance as was the usual case, the union never submitted one. Castlewood extended its contract for another year, waiting until August 2009 to start negotiations.
Originally, management offered a contract that would have to shift workers from a union-sponsored plan to one controlled by Castlewood. Monthly fees would jump from zero to $366.93 a month for single policies and to $739.08 for families. After months of talks, management offered to bring the workers back -- as long as the club managers could fire or lay people off without taking seniority into consideration.
"We continue to meet with the union on a regular basis. Both sides are showing some movement and we're optimistic about the future," club Manager Jerry Olson said. He had no comment about Saturday's rally.
Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty has supported the union, UniteHere Local 2850, from the beginning of the dispute between workers and management. Haggerty began his speech Saturday with another chant: "No justice, no peace."
"I'm cold, but I'm here. Ladies and gentlemen, this is one of the most unfair things I've ever seen. I'm disappointed and I'm saddened that this has happened in my district, people that I represent up in the hills that will not come down and support the workers that have been locked out," Haggerty told the enthusiastic listeners. "These workers ... have given their lives to serving the people of Castlewood, the many banquets which they have profited off of. They've made profits off these people and they want to take away their healthcare?"
Haggerty, who said, "Management at Castlewood must go," ended his speech abruptly, apparently choked up with emotion. He was followed by Hayward City Councilman Bill Quirk, who joked, "Nothing like a picket line in the morning. It's better than two cups of coffee."
Quirk, a 30-year union member himself, pointed out union members from the area.
"We've all got to stick together and we're going to win," he told the crowd.
Josie Camacho, head of the Alameda Labor Council, received cheers when she brought up Wisconsin's move to end collective bargaining with workers and anti-union sentiments across the country.
"Nowhere is that fight stronger than here with the Castlewood workers, where you've stuck together for one year," Camacho said. "Your fight is the most righteous one between the haves and the have-nots, between those who are wealthy and those who work, between the greedy and the humble. It takes a special person -- here, the Castlewood workers -- for you to have the courage, the integrity and the perseverance for you to continue the fight for you and your families."
Collective bargaining across the country has become an issue; along with Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana state legislatures have bills on the floor that could limit or eliminate union workers' rights. State Assemblyman Bob Wiekowski (D-Fremont) focused on that during his remarks.
"I was here a year ago when I got the call about the lockout," Wiekowski said. "There are meetings like this in Wisconsin, Ohio and in other parts of the United States that are saying, 'We are not going to let people take away our collective bargaining rights. We are not going to let people lock us out.' We're not slaves. I'm saddened that I'm still here. ... This should not be happening in Alameda County."
Wiekowski promised to use his influence as assemblyman to persuade groups planning tournaments at Castlewood to look for other venues until the lockout is over.
"We will not tolerate management that simply thinks they can close their doors and turn their backs on workers who have been here for 10, 15, 18, 25 years and say, 'We don't want to deal with you anymore,'" he said. "We want to send a message throughout the United States that lockouts are not tolerated in Alameda County or anywhere in California or anywhere in the United States of America."
Pleasanton has recently reopened contract negotiations with members of the Pleasanton City Employees Association/AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) Local 955, and Alda Nash, a police dispatcher with the city and AFSCME member, came out to offer support.
"Just know that we're struggling with our own contract at this time. We got a tentative agreement that wasn't voted on, people went back on their word," Nash said. "We stand united with you guys and the Pleasanton city employees will support you in your cause."
In the year since the lockout began, many of the workers have gotten other full- or part-time jobs. Many, however, still want to work for Castlewood and are hopeful the dispute can end in their favor.
Cook Alfredo Valadez said he's struggled financially since the lockout.
"We've been through a lot of trouble, paying the bills, paying the rent but we've received a lot of support from the union (and) from the community," Valadez said, adding that he needs the job for the benefits because of his wife. "She's got a medical condition and that's why I keep fighting because I cannot pay what the club's asking for health insurance."
Server Peggy Duthie, 82, a 25-year veteran Castlewood worker, said the lockout is "just sad," adding that this is the first time she's drawn unemployment in her entire life.
"I'm trying to teach the young people that this country has been made strong because the working people have stuck together and insisted on a fair day's wage for a fair day's work and people have forgotten that," Duthie said. "The employers don't realize that the employees are making them look good."
Francisca Carranza was a maintenance worker at Castlewood for six years.
"We have been bending backwards to try to meet them at some point. We found out it's not about money," Carranza said.
The union has proposed a contract that would raise health care to $225 a month, restrict health benefits to full-time employees, and accept a wage freeze in the first year and very low raises in later years, which the union said would more than offset any costs to Castlewood.
The union has also won some small victories with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) -- allowing, for example, the workers to picket at the club. Union organizer Sarah Norr said the union is awaiting a decision in a pending case before the NLRB, which could result in Castlewood being ordered to end the lockout or pay the workers back pay. The union has offered to go to mediation, but Norr said the club has refused.
Norr also pointed to $300,000 spent on legal fees by the country club and the loss of at least 10 golf tournaments along with "any number of parties" as reasons the lockout is costing Castlewood Country Club more than a contract with workers would.
"Financially, they (the country club) just can't sustain this fight, and they seem to be hoping that the workers will just give up and go away," Norr said.