Castlewood Country Club ordered to End the Lockout!

In a stunning victory for the Labor Movement, an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) of the NLRB ordered Castlewood Country Club, in Pleasanton, CA, to end its two and a half year lockout of UNITE HERE Local 2850 members.   On February 25, 2010, Castlewood locked out its cooks, servers, dishwashers, bartenders and janitors after the Union refused to accept Castlewood’s proposal that Union members pay $739/month for health insurance.  It was soon clear that Castlewood’s real intent was not just to impose draconian increases to its workers’ health care costs, but to actually get rid of the Union entirely.  Amid threats that the Union workers would never have their jobs back should they stick with their Union, the Union members beat a decertification campaign by a vote of 41-17 on April 2, 2010.  For more than two years the Union picketed daily, conducted a community boycott, and held numerous actions.

On August 17, 2012, the ALJ found that Castlewood had unlawfully locked-out its workers since August 10, 2010!  The ALJ also found that Castlewood violated the law when it:

  1. Threatened its workers;
  2. Prevented workers from distributing Union literature and prevented workers from accessing Country Club member functions;
  3. Told workers that they would never return to work;
  4. Subcontracted bargaining unit work (kitchen cleaning) without bargaining with the Union;
  5. Maintained unlawful rules in the workplace; and
  6. Bargained in bad faith.

The ALJ ordered Castlewood to immediately:

  1. End the lockout, reinstating all bargaining unit members to their jobs without loss of seniority;
  2. Make the locked-out employees whole for losses incurred during the lockout since August 10, 2010 with interest;
  3. Cease subcontracting kitchen cleaning work and reinstate all kitchen workers to those positions;
  4. Commence bargaining in good faith the Union; and
  5. Rescind unlawful solicitation and access policies.

Castlewood must pay back pay including all lost benefits to all locked out workers from August 10 2010 until the workers are reinstated.  This will amount, with interest, to several million dollars.

Throughout the lock-out, Castlewood hired the notorious Union-busting law firm, Littler Mendelson.  One of its senior partners, Robert Hulteng, represented Castlewood during negotiations and testified under oath during the hearing that he had not altered his “contemporaneous” bargaining notes, and presented these “unaltered” notes as evidence during the trial.  On the expected last day of the hearing, suspicious of these notes, the Union asked for time to have a forensic expert examine these notes.  The Judge granted this request, and later the forensic expert testified that Hulteng’s notes had been altered in no less than four places after the bargaining session took place.

Only after the expert testified did Hulteng “remember” that he had altered the notes!  As a result, the ALJ found that Hulteng and his bargaining notes were not credible, and ordered Castlewood to pay the Union for costs it incurred in hiring the forensic expert.  This is a very unusual remedy.

The employer has the right to appeal to the full NLRB.  Meanwhile, its liability for backpay continues to increase.

Congratulations to the workers of Castlewood, Local 2850 and the labor community of the East Bay which has fought so long to support this struggle.

The Decision can be found by going to:
http://www.nlrb.gov/cases-decisions/case-decisions/administrative-law-judge-decisions and clicking on “view” under Castlewood Country Club.

By Yuri Gottesman

Legal Developments