by Rachel Swan
Just a few days after the march to San Quentin prison, Occupy Oakland has redoubled its populist efforts, this time by joining forces with a loose confederation of labor activists — namely, union representatives from UniteHERE Local 2850 — to advocate for worker rights at the Castlewood Country Club in Pleasanton. Two years ago, the club locked out about sixty staff members, including kitchen helpers, bartenders, and janitorial workers, in a dispute over health care. When club management launched contract negotiations with the union in August 2009, it proposed a new plan that would require hefty contributions from workers who'd previously not had to pay: the new fees were $366.93 a month for single policies and to $739.08 for families, which made health care unaffordable for a large swath of club employees.
After rejecting a counter-proposal from the union, Castlewood locked workers out on February 25, 2010. In the two years since, Castlewood has pressured workers to decertify their union — they resisted — and even sought a restraining order to keep the locked-out staff from picketing on nearby sidewalks. It also tried to abrogate the club's seniority system and implement a new policy that would allow replacement employees to usurp positions formerly held by strikers. The union filed multiple complaints against Castlewood for coercive practices. You can read a pretty detailed chronology of events here.
But if tenacity is a virtue, then these locked-out workers are virtually unimpeachable. They've persisted for two years, staged protests, and held a hunger strike. And by many counts they've been effective: In September the National Labor Relations Board ordered Castlewood, which already faced a budget deficit and a boycott from several major gold tournaments, to furnish $1.7 million in owed worker back pay. (Protesters regaled club management with a fake $1.7 million check in September.) Occupy Oakland and Occupy San Francisco will certainly bring more visibility to the issue when they march to the club from Civic Park in downtown Pleasanton this Saturday, to mark the lockout's 2-year anniversary. It also augurs well for Occupy to have realigned itself with local unions. The march leaves Civic Park at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 25, for those who want to participate.