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Feds step into Castlewood Country Club Labor Fight

National Labor Relations Board files complaint alleging lockout is unlawful

The locked out workers at the have a new ally in their labor dispute – the federal government.

The National Labor Relations Board has filed a complaint alleging that the lockout of 61 union employees has been unlawful since August 10, 2010. That complaint is scheduled to be heard by an administrative law judge in early November.

That complaint alleges that the club took action during the negotiations with the union after the lockout started which prevented the two sides from reaching a new collective bargaining agreement, said George Velastegui, an attorney for the NLRB’s Region 32.

That conduct included refusing to meet more frequently with the union until it agreed to the club’s demands regarding a seniority proposal, he said.

“It’s a lockout that was converted to an unlawful lockout, so it’s a bit unusual. Sixty one people were locked out so that is not run of the mill,” Velastegui said.

If the judge rules in the union’s favor, the workers would be eligible for back pay and benefits as well as out-of-pocket costs, Velastegui added. But either side can appeal the ruling through the courts.

According to the Unite Here Local 2850 union, the seniority proposal would allow the club to lay workers off or assign them work hours out of the order of seniority.

Castlewood General Manager Jerry Olson called the NLRB and union’s charges “blatantly false.”

The union made the same allegations more than a year ago and the NLRB dismissed their claims, Olson said. The NLRB took a second look at the matter after the union appealed, he added.

“We are confident we will be exonerated,” Olson said.

The labor dispute was sparked by the club insisting that workers put 50 percent of their wages towards health care insurance, and the workers contend that they can afford to pay up to 40 percent. Those workers have been locked out since late February 2010.

The workers' latest action — other than daily pickets outside the club — was to try to return to work last Saturday and present the club with a phony check for $1.7 million. in which several of them and some nearby residents who showed their support for the workers were arrested for blocking traffic near the club.

The check represented the back-pay and benefits owed to the union workers, said Nischit Hegde, an organizer for the union. More than 100 people showed up Saturday to picket and demand that the workers be reinstated, she said.

“We continue to go there (to the club) nine times a week. We are just going to keep fighting,” Hegde said.

Residents and in some cases club members have voiced their support for the workers or frustration that the lockout has dragged on.

“I think it’s tragic for both sides,” said club member Larry Serderber.

“It’s a financial loss to the workers and club members.”

Serderber said the club’s financial statements indicate the club lost $300,000 in 2010, after at least two years of profitability and club dues have been raised 5 percent to help cover the costs of attorneys and other expenses associated with the lockout.

Serderber said he thinks the club is trying to break the union.

“It likely will go on for years unless Castlewood starts negotiating in earnest. The union proposal is well within the market for local country clubs,” Serderber said.

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