Pleasanton Weekly

News - July 1, 2011

23 protesters arrested after blocking Castlewood Drive

Lockout of Country Club staff entering 16th month

by Glenn Wohltmann

Twenty-three people protesting the ongoing lockout of Castlewood workers were arrested June 23 for blocking Castlewood Drive in what organizers described as an act of civil disobedience.

The protest drew close to 100 demonstrators and nearly 50 police officers from the Alameda County Sheriff's Office and Pleasanton. Castlewood Drive was blocked from just before 8 a.m. until about 11:15, when the protesters blocking the road were taken into custody.

It seemed to be a cooperative arrest; the arresting officers were polite and none of the demonstrators offered any resistance. In fact, the crowd ceased its chanting each time an officer from the Alameda County Sheriff's Office made the required announcement: "On behalf of the state of California, I demand that you leave immediately. If you fail to leave, you will be arrested."

The lockout of union workers from Castlewood Country Club is entering its 16th month, with neither side budging. 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.

On the day of the protests, the country club was hosting its largest golf tournament of the year, the Men's Invitational. Golfers were delayed about 20 minutes because of the protesters, and a brief scuffle broke out between the two groups.

The road blockage, with protesters holding a duct-tape-wrapped cardboard chain across the road, came just in time to complicate life for morning commuters leaving Castlewood and forced cars to detour around the section of Foothill Road near the country club as well.

At one point, a half dozen or so golf carts were halted around the crowd. Golfers seemed unperturbed by the protest, although at one point golfers were taunted by a couple of demonstrators; the bulk of the crowd occasionally broke into the chant: "All you golfers look around, we need justice in this town."

The union events began with some demonstrators blocking the road while others stood behind them or along the side of the intersection of Castlewood Drive and Foothill Road while organizers led the crowd in chants. After that, about 40 protesters marched, continuing their chants, with speeches by union organizers from a half-dozen unions who came out to support the locked-out workers.

Wei-Ling Huber, president of UniteHere local 2850, which represents the workers, told the crowd that during the last year, Castlewood Country Club has spent three times as much as it would have paid the workers, the money going for lawyers, security and the new staff brought in by the club.

"This has always been about power," Huber said. "They thought we would cave in. ... They were absolutely wrong.

"We're going to go back, we're going to go back with a contract, and we're going to go back with a union."

Huber was joined by members of the faith community, a group of Democrats from Hayward and other union leaders, including some from UniteHere local 2, based out of San Francisco, which in March reached a deal with Hilton Hotel after an 18-month labor dispute.

Club Manager Jerry Olson watched on the sidelines for a time, chatting with golfers and residents. He said both sides are taking the issue seriously.

"I think we're both committed to our positions," Olson said. He refused to comment on the status of negotiations between the club management and the union.

During the chants and march, while some protesters blocked the road, police directed traffic and provided crowd control. After about three hours, a bus arrived to transport those to be arrested, along with more than a dozen officers in riots gear: helmets, batons and body armor. None of that was needed however, and the arrests, handled by other officers, seemed to go smoothly with officers actually helping one protester on crutches as he walked to the bus. The 23 protesters were charged with two misdemeanors apiece: refusal to disperse and obstructing movement on a street or public place. They were cited and released.

Despite the animosity between the union and many of those who live in the Castlewood community, there seemed to be support from some residents. One entered the long driveway up to the club with a handmade sign taped to his car that backed the locked-out workers, and another in a Corvette stopped to drop off water to the workers.

The sides on the lockout remain at the same stalemate they've been at for months. Originally, management offered a contract that would have to shift workers from a union-sponsored health 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.

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.

Labor union debates have sprung up across the U.S. in recent months, beginning in Wisconsin, after the introduction of a bill which would strip most public workers of nearly all union bargaining rights. The debate spread to Ohio, Oklahoma and South Carolina, and has become a local issue as well, with activists campaigning against rising retirement costs for city workers and automatic pay increases for teachers.

Comments

Posted by Sal, a resident of Downtown
on Jul 1, 2011 at 8:17 am

We wouldn't want decent wages interrupting the tee times for frat-boy golfers. Oh the horror!!!! Can't wait to hear the comments from all you conservatives whining about "evil/marxist/communist unions" with some crazy tie-in to McNerney or Obama.


Posted by mike, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 1, 2011 at 8:28 am

Sal - give it a rest. All of this is old news, nobody cares.


Posted by George, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 1, 2011 at 5:30 pm

Why is pleasanton weekly so pro union


Posted by helen, a resident of Highland Oaks
on Jul 2, 2011 at 6:05 am

Unions cost us all more money. They complain about human rights and blow the whistle on safety and health violations, and companies have to spend money on lawyers and engineers to make sure the complaints don't get out of line. I say breathing a little asbestos in the workplace or an occasional mine disaster are good things for America. It incites our collective memory of the way things could be if we went back to 1890s or 1920s capitalist models. That's what I want. Pre-Roosevelt capitalism because that worked so well.


Posted by WhatThe?, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 2, 2011 at 10:54 am

I have a close friend who works at a Country Club. Let's say they are slightly abusive of its workers. She was loyal, worked hard, the club charges 15% gratuity on each check AND KEEPS THE MONEY. Her response was simple: she got another job in a more upscale industry. The hospitality industry is not the place for a career. A private country club is not the place to look for a livable wage. It's time to get the resumes burning, the skills upgraded and the vision set to a higher standard.


Posted by Censored, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 2, 2011 at 11:41 am

So "Editor" reruns this castlewood story that was run a week ago, with 'comments' removed.,..,.after all, if Editor doesn't 'agree' then that group of 'comments' no longer exist. Gee, let's rerun the same article, hoping to direct to tone to match the 'editor's.
Obama's press censoring habits must be catching on with pw editor.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Castlewood
on Jul 2, 2011 at 1:38 pm

"Despite the animosity between the union and many of those who live in the Castlewood community..."

Mr. Wohitmann: This labor dispute is between a private country club and a union. Castlewood area residents are not directly involved here. It is wrong for you to suggest otherwise. Do you know how many area residents are full members of the Club? How many Club members live outside of Castlewood? Outside of Pleasanton? Do you know how many of the individuals who run the Club actually live in the Castlewood community? Please keep the focus where it belongs: on the Club, its members, and leaders; and on the Union, its members, and leaders.


Posted by Leland, a resident of Happy Valley
on Jul 4, 2011 at 8:16 am

Ya just have to laugh at all these union creeps. When my Daddy passed 4 years ago he left each of his sons 1/2 billion. Where else in the world can that happen? Every strong nation that has ever existed made sure its wealthiest were protected against the 99% of the population philosophers throughout the ages have referred to as bottomfeeders. As in suckers. Its the nature of bottomfeeders. Either try to extort money from us members or they retool their resumes to go extort some other employer. We'll never be the nation we're capable of being unless we learn how to live within our means. I don't go demanding union workers pay for my martini lunches. Why should they demand that we pay them a fair wage?


If you were a member and logged in you could track comments from this story.

Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: *

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields