East Bay Express: Workers Allege Violations at Oakland Airport

The port and other governmental agencies are actively investigating several airport concessionaires for alleged wage, overtime, anti-union violations.

by Rachel Swan

Oakland’s 2002 living wage ordinance had honorable intentions: to provide family-sustaining jobs at the city’s port. Originally it applied only to businesses with twenty or more employees, but the port amended it in 2006 to cover a much broader swath of the maritime and aviation industry — including all businesses run by Oakland Airport’s primary contractor, HMSHost, and any subcontractor that signed a lease after 2006, regardless of size. The idea was not only to make sure a voter-approved ordinance had teeth, but also to ensure that port businesses hewed to the spirit of the law, and not just the letter.

Unfortunately, some businesses don’t share that vision: The operator of a See’s Candies franchise still refuses to abide by the living wage ordinance, citing a loophole that she says grandfathers her in. There is also evidence that a Subway franchise is violating overtime laws by assigning employees to work consecutive shifts at the airport sandwich shop and at a nearby gas station it owns, with no overtime pay. As of two weeks ago, Subway had also fired two of its workers, allegedly for union activity.

In fact, workers have filed a whole litany of complaints against the eight sublessee concessionaires at Oakland International Airport, some of which they expressed during a spirited public comment session at the July 26 Port Commission meeting. Complaints filed with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement accuse Subway of stiffing workers on overtime and ten-minute breaks, and of circumventing overtime laws by having employees clock in at different Subway locations — i.e., at Oakland Airport and the one on Washington Avenue, which are both owned by Navdeep and Gurinder Grewal. The Grewals referred all questions to their attorney, Michael Foster, who was unavailable for comment. Read the full article.

East Bay Express: Castlewood Lawyer Doctored Evidence?

3/14/12 – The attorney for the upscale Pleasanton country club that locked out its workers is now on the hot seat.
By Rachel Swan

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.

Mother Jones: At Country Club, a Rally to “Save the 1 Percent”

2/25/12 – Pete Woiwode figures that if the 1 percent is going to take a stand against the 99 percent, it might as well be at a country club.

“I mean, we have a right to golf,” the 29-year-old community organizer proclaimed on Saturday. He was wearing a khaki suit and standing under the palms of Pleasanton, California’s Castlewood Country Club, where a dozen or so protesters had gathered near the 14th hole, next to a tent on which someone had written, “Save the 1%!” The group had come together to support Castlewood’s two-year lockout of its unionized cooks, dishwashers, and janitors—people who “are asking for so much,” Woiwode told me as another demonstrator sipped Perrier. “They are asking for health care and asking for their good jobs back. Why don’t they go out there and find other jobs?” Read the full article.

KTVU: Occupy protesters join former country club employees in protest over 2-year labor dispute

Hundreds of former employees of the Castlewood Country Club in Pleasanton, joined by the Occupy movement, gathered to rally for their jobs back in what’s been a two-year long fight.

Saturday was the two year anniversary of when 61 employees were locked out of their jobs at the country club because the union turned down a contract offer.

Former waiters, banquet workers, and janitors marched through the streets of Pleasanton Saturday. Protesters held satiric signs giving support to the 1 percent and glorifying greed. Read the full article.

Mercury News: Occupy Oakland forces to join labor protest march to Castlewood Country Club on Saturday

2/24/12 – PLEASANTON — Protests over the lockout of cooks and cleaners at the Castlewood Country Club will ramp up Saturday when members of the Occupy movement join labor leaders in a march from downtown to the club.

Some from Occupy Oakland plan to pitch tents near the country club temporarily in a show of sympathy for workers on the two-year anniversary of the lockout, according to a notice from the group.

This is not the first labor protest at the club, but it could be the biggest. Organizers say they expect people from Oakland, Berkeley and San Francisco to come. Read the full article.

Pleasanton Weekly: Castlewood’s locked out union workers march in downtown Pleasanton

December 15, 2011 – A group of former Castlewood Country Club unionized workers and their union’s representatives marched in downtown Pleasanton this morning to seek public support for their battle against the club.

Some in the group also represented Tri-Valley churches, which had been asked by the union to join in the Pleasanton demonstration. Read the full article.