If there’s one area in which Occupy Oakland excels, it’s bringing sex appeal to seemingly dry populist issues — like fair wages and labor laws. A couple weeks ago the movement cast its eye toward a protracted dispute between workers and management at Pleasanton’s Castlewood Country Club, which, it turned out, served as a perfect allegory of the One Percent attacking the little guy. In fact, it’s even more perfect than occupiers might have anticipated. Court documents suggest that one of Castlewood’s lawyers doctored evidence in the case so the country club wouldn’t have to pay locked-out workers at least $1.7 million in back pay.
The fight actually started two years ago, when Castlewood locked out staff members following a dispute over health care — the club’s new contract demanded hefty contributions from employees who’d previously received it for free. The new fees were $366.93 for single policies per month and $739.08 for families. The conflict remains unresolved and Castlewood has hired a full “replacement” staff while locked-out workers continue to picket every day. By the time Occupy Oakland got involved, the country club had already tried a series of tactics that could be deemed “coercive,” including allegedly pressuring workers to decertify their union.
Now a new wrinkle has appeared, and it can only add fuel to fire. On March 1, Administrative Law Judge Clifford Anderson wrapped up a hearing for a complaint that the National Labor Relations Board had issued against Castlewood, alleging that the lockout was unlawful. It actually isn’t illegal to lock out workers to goad them into submission after a contract dispute, but certain changes that Castlewood allegedly was proposing — like trying to abrogate the country club’s seniority system, and making union membership optional, rather than mandatory — showed that Castlewood wasn’t just trying to win a fight over health care. It appears that it was trying to destroy the union, and replace a full staff of bartenders, janitors, and kitchen helpers with people who will do the same job at a lower price. And, union reps say, the country club has been obfuscating those intentions. Read the full article.