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Nine hundred and four days into a lockout of kitchen workers by the Castlewood Country Club ("land of the rich, home of the selfish"), Adminstrative Law Judge Clifford Anderson handed down a decision that the workers at Castlewood had amazing faith was coming. He found that

  • Castlewood had maintained an unlawful lockout for two years.
  • Castlewood had bargained in bad faith.
  • Castlewood's attorney was not credible
  • Castlewood maintained 'animus' towards its locked out workers.
  • Castlewood management violated numerous other labor laws.

And his decision orders the club to reinstate the workers and give them back pay and benefits.

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Castlewood Country Club is located in Pleasanton, California, just across the Bay, over the hills and down I-580 from San Francisco. Pleasanton is a wealthy town, and the membership of the country club is, of course, even wealthier. They could well have afforded to pay an extra $0.29 a day for health insurance to continue coverage for the people who served them apertifs in their leisure; likely they wouldn't have noticed the difference in their monthly Cayman Island tax-avoidance bank account statements. Instead, management told the workers

...if we want to come back to work, we have to agree to pay $849 a month for family health care.
This on salaries of as little as $10/hr!

What does this long awaited court decision mean? Pretty much nothing concrete. Yet.

Castlewood managers could end the NLRB case by reinstating workers, paying back wages and benefits, rescinding regressive bargaining proposals, and addressing several other violations of the National Labor Relations Act. Or they could continue the dispute by asking the National Labor Relations Board in Washington to review the case. If Castlewood does not end the lockout, the Regional Director of the NLRB's local office could seek an injunction that would put the employees back to work while the legal dispute continues. We don't yet know if he will do this.
If Castlewood does appeal, they risk have to pay even more in back wages and benefits if they ultimately lose. But if they don't appeal, they will have conceded, and when have the one-percent ever conceded anything?

According to Castlewood organizer Sarah Norr, once a Castlewood appeal to the Washington NLRB has been concluded (and hopefully lost), the club could then begin Federal Court proceedings, potentially going all the way to the US Supreme Court. The Castlewood workers could therefore be locked out for many years to come, although according to Norr there is a reasonable likelihood of a judge issuing the injunction which would order Castlewood to take back the workers pending resolution of the matter.

It is a testament to the will of the Castlewood workers that, during more than 900 days being out of work, they never threw in the towel.

We are the workers of Castlewood Country Club - a playground for millionaires. On February 25th, 2010, they threw us out on the street because we wouldn't give up affordable health insurance for our families.

We're fighting for health care for our children.

We're fighting for work with dignity.

We're fighting for you.

It is a testament to the unyielding avarice of the one percent who are enjoying Castlewood facilities that they could walk by the picketing workers day after day for two and a half years and not say "Let's make sure these people and their families have a decent wage."

We've been saying for two years that Castlewood wasn't giving us a fair chance to get our jobs back. Now Judge Anderson is saying the same thing. I hope this will be a wake-up call to the golfers that they need to stop stalling and put us back to work," said Castlewood cook Carlos Mejia.
And it is a damning indictment of the state of labor law and the regard this country holds for low-paid workers that it would take more than 900 days -- longer than the siege of Leningrad for Marx sake -- to come to even an initial ruling.



The Occupy Oakland Labor Solidarity Committee, (the group which organized the shutdown of the Port of Oakland on December 12th, 2012) has been active in supporting the Castlewood workers.

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I and others have marched and walked with them on a picket line more than once so far in this struggle. You can read about one such action that took place back in February: Today I Got Called a Socialist Asshole. It features a cohort of the one percent showing up in counterprotest and make the case that "GOLF IS A HUMAN RIGHT!" Other actions at the country club followed, the latest one in June.

Castlewood kitchen workers are represented by UNITE HERE, with local offices in downtown Oakland. It is with pleasure that I congratulate the workers and UNITE HERE for their success, but especially for their tenacity. It is a lesson others are going to have to take to heart if there is to be anything other than ephemeral victories in the battle for a living wage.

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