Labor board sides with Castlewood workers (Read More…)
By Katie Nelson
August 22, 2012—Union members could receive millions in back wages and benefits after an administrative law judge found that Castlewood Country Club has maintained an illegal lockout for more than two years.
Judge Clifford Anderson of the National Labor Review Board, has recommended the labor board order Castlewood to reinstate all locked-out workers and pay them up to roughly $3.4 million in two years of back wages and benefits.
Anderson’s finding was released Friday.
The lockout at the plush country club nestled in the Pleasanton hills began Aug. 10, 2010.
Union members are ecstatic about the recommendation, however they say they will wait to fully celebrate until after Castlewood responds to the recommendation.
Castlewood has 28 days from the time the finding was handed down to either accept the terms and pay the workers, or move forward with an appeal.
“This is not a gentle suggestion,” said Sarah Norr, spokesperson for UNITE HERE Local 2850, which represents the locked out workers.
Jerry Olson, general manager of Castlewood, said the club was surprised and disappointed by the judge’s finding, but that the club respects the judge’s authority. He said it has been such a short time since the finding was released that the country club has only begun the process of evaluating options.
He added, however, that he is hopeful the finding will lead to a contract and bring an end to the labor dispute.
“The options going forward are not pleasant,” said country club member Larry Ferderber. “It’s fair to say going forward we are in a real mess, whether you fight—which costs more—or don’t fight. You are still liable for the cost.”
The lockout has been going on since February 2010, when Castlewood locked union workers out of the country club after labor contract negotiations turned sour.
According to Norr, a “big step backwards” occurred just six months after the lockout began when Castlewood took an aggressive stance on contract proposals.
In total, 61 union workers were displaced, and while some have since found jobs, Norr said many union members she has spoken to would like to return to work at the country club.
Michael York, a union worker who has never found another job since being locked out roughly two-and-a-half years ago, said he has had to make some adjustments to his life, but it has not been as drastic as others.
“It’s just myself, and I’ve been doing OK,” he said.
But would he go back to work at Castlewood after all the disputes?
“Sure,” he said. “It would be business as usual after a couple of weeks, I think.”
Posted by Admin on 08/22 at 09:45 AM
Left banks with SEIU (Read More…)
By Ivan Osorio 8/15/2012
Some prominent Democratic and progressive groups — including the Democratic National Committee, Democratic Governors Association, and America Votes — are shifting accounts, or at least parts of them, from Bank of America to the union-owned Amalgamated Bank. Politically charged business moves are nothing new. However, news accounts of Amalgamated Bank’s surge in politically conscious deposits have made no mention of its recent history, which includes a bitter struggle over control. As in every power struggle, there were some big winners and some very big losers.
At the center of this drama are the politically powerful Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and its notorious former head, Andy Stern. Amalgamated Bank is controlled by Workers United, a subsidiary of SEIU. SEIU gained jurisdiction over Workers United — and by extension control over Amalgamated — as a result of an ugly, protracted union civil war, which Stern sought to utilize to expand his own union.
Workers United, which joined SEIU on March 23, 2009, broke away from UNITE-HERE, a union representing workers in the hospitality and textile industries. Hospitality and textiles? Yes, UNITE-HERE was a result of the 2004 merger of two unions representing workers in two unrelated industries. The Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees (HERE) and UNITE (formerly the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees, itself the product of a series of textile worker union mergers) came together in what seemed a mutually beneficial arrangement.
UNITE’s organizing prospects have diminished greatly in recent decades, as U.S. textile producers have shifted labor-intensive production overseas. However, it had its own bank, Amalgamated. HERE, on the other hand, faced better organizing opportunities with service workers. “On paper, the marriage made sense,” noted The New York Times’ Steven Greenhouse in 2009, after the relationship had gone sour. “Unite … had lots of money to organize workers, but few workers left to unionize because so many apparel jobs had moved overseas. At the same time, Here was starved for cash, but saw an ocean of hotel and restaurant workers to unionize.”
However, the merger seemed poorly planned and fragile from the beginning. Rather than create a new leadership structure for the newly merged union, UNITE-HERE adopted what was in effect a dual presidency. Former UNITE President Bruce Raynor became the new union’s president, while former HERE President John Wilhelm became head of UNITE-HERE’s hospitality division.
What happened next is not entirely clear, as it involved internal union politics, but both sides in the dispute did air public grievances. Raynor accused Wilhelm and other board members of undermining his authority under the union’s constitution. He also claimed that the merger had failed, given that organizing was down. Wilhelm claimed that Raynor sought to subvert the board’s decision-making process when it didn’t go his way. But a few events are clear.
A war of words ensued. “We’re not going to allow them to hijack the resources that were put aside by generations of ladies’ and men’s garment workers,” said Raynor, according to The New York Times. “We’ll do whatever we have to do to show that we can’t be held captive by a bunch of thugs.” Wilhelm, in a statement, said: “The merger has not worked for Bruce Raynor because he believes that the Union is his personal property and wants to rule it as an absolute dictatorship.”
On January 30, 2009, then-SEIU head Andy Stern wrote to Raynor and Wilhelm, saying that the merger had failed, and suggesting that they consider merging with SEIU. Raynor took up Stern’s offer. His breakaway faction became Workers United, joining SEIU in March 2009. Under a July 2010 agreement that resolved disputes over assets, Workers United — by then part of SEIU — retained control of Amalgamated Bank. UNITE-HERE got the union’s New York headquarters. But the conflicts weren’t over.
In March 2011, SEIU’s leadership filed internal charges against Bruce Raynor, for allegedly misreporting $2,316.00 in meal expenses. On April 26, 2011, Raynor announced that he would resign the presidency of Workers United and would reimburse the $2,316.00 in order to dispel any doubts about his behavior. After leading one of the biggest fights over union assets in recent years, Bruce Raynor, in a denouement befitting a Greek tragedy, ended up seeing his tenure undone over $2,316.00.
Raynor would remain on the board of Amalgamated Bank, reported Greenhouse at the time. As of this writing, a mere 15 months later, his name is not listed among the board members on the Amalgamated website, and the Workers United website is no longer online.
Now, with the Occupy Wall Street movement setting the trend, moving deposits to Amalgamated has become a leftist cause du jour. For SEIU, business and political influence seem to mix quite well.
Ivan Osorio is editorial director at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
Posted by Admin on 08/16 at 01:09 PM