Occupy and Castlewood Workers to join up for “perhaps the biggest and most vibrant march Pleasanton has ever seen”

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Organizers hope for a big turnout Feb. 25 for the latest protest in a two-year saga to demand a better contract.

Food service workers at Castlewood Country Club were put on lockout on Feb. 25, 2010 when they refused the terms of a contract with the club. The contract stipulated that workers pay $849 per month for health care, a change from the free health care the contract had previously provided.

Lockouts, when employers refuse to let employees come back to work until they agree to contract terms, are a rare but powerful tool used against unions.

“A lockout is the opposite of a strike,” said Sarah Norr, organizer with UNITE HERE local 2850, which represents the Castlewood workers.

Since the lockout began, the club has hired non-union replacement workers and most of the union workers have taken other jobs. But, in order to end the lockout legally, the company must resolve the contract issues.

According to Norr, "It's illegal to permanently replace locked out workers."

Workers brought the case to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which filed a complaint against Castlewood August 30, 2010. The complaint states that the club “has been interfering with, restraining, and coercing employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed in Section 7 of the [National Labor Relations] Act” and “has been failing and refusing to bargaining [sic] collectively and in good faith with the exclusive bargaining representative of its employees.”

An ongoing NLRB hearing on the case is expected to conclude on March 1.

Meanwhile, workers have been picketing daily since the lockout began two years ago. This has sometimes resulted in dramatic clashes with the club members.

One of the workers' protests last June. Golfers' reponses, complete with property desctruction, begin around 1:35

"Members of the club harass them on a daily basis. Hitting golf balls at them, throwing racial slurs at them. Some of them are really supportive but some are not so nice,” said Norr.

But workers persevere, and tomorrow they hope for a larch march on the club, joined by OccupySF and Occupy Oakland.

Said Norr, “It’s going to be a big, vibrant march, perhaps biggest and most vibrant march Pleasanton has ever seen. There will be a babies' and children’s brigade.”

For Occupy organizers, joining up with the protest makes perfect sense.

“Many of Castlewood’s member-owners spent $25,000 for their memberships,” said Ann Worth, a longtime union member and participant in Occupy Oakland, in a press release. “They can justify spending that kind of money to play golf, but they still think it's okay to squeeze more out of the people who work for them for $10 or $12 an hour. They expect workers to subsidize their expensive game by giving up affordable health care for their kids. It’s a perfect example of what's been going wrong in this country: the rich are getting richer by denying everyone else their share in the American Dream.”

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