Reflections on Civil Disobedience: 24 Arrested in Northern California

Last Thursday, June 23rd, 24 union members, community members, and interfaith supporters were arrested in a civil disobedience in Pleasanton, California. Pleasanton is home to Castlewood Country Club, an elite golf course.

About a year and a half ago, 61 Castlewood Country Club workers, members of UNITE HERE Local 2850, were renegotiating their contract with management. Management wanted to workers to pay $849 a month for family health insurance, which is not affordable for most of the members.

UNITE HERE even offered a contract that would be cheaper than management’s proposed contract, while still providing workers with affordable healthcare, but management refused to accept it. On February 25th, 2010, Castlewood workers showed up to work and were locked out. Management had filled their jobs with temporary workers. Since the start of the lockout there have been many demonstrations and regular pickets.

June 23rd marked Castlewood’s most important member golf tournament of the year. Castlewood workers, community members, students, and interfaith allies were there to make sure it wasn’t business as usual. 24 people put their bodies on the line and blocked a road to the golf course for three hours, delaying the golfer’s tournament and sending the message that none of us will give up until the workers return to work with affordable healthcare.

It was an emotional action. Summer Organizer Lupe said, “Before, I was pumped up, I was excited to see all the different folks that were going to support us. However, the day of the action I begin to feel nervous I felt that any tiny error could jeopardize the whole action. Then once the action began I was privileged to have confident and strong leadership that guided me throughout the whole action. I draw great motivation witnessing the strength of Francisca Carranza, who is a locked out Castlewood worker. In addition to being a leader in the fight, Francisca is the mother of my fellow summer organizer Adrianna, who also inspires me. I was surrounded by so much courage that I felt that I, too, had the courage to do this.”

Summer Organizer Tim reports, “I was doing security along with other summer organizers to keep protestors safe. I had a close encounter with a few golf carts, as angry golfers moved rocks on the side of the road and tried to drive onto the course. Overall the action was a successful, inspiring display of collective action.”

Summer Organizer Caroline shares her experience getting arrested and facing injustice head-on:

“When the time came, we took our places sitting in the street and watched as golfers came down the hill in their golf carts to begin their tournament. At one point a man in a golf cart actually began to drive through the crowd on the side of the road where I was sitting. I realized he might try to run us down in front of a police officer. Two people from the security team stepped in front of the golf cart to shield us and the driver continued driving into them until the police officer stopped him. I could not believe that playing in a golf tournament was important enough to physically harm someone. This made me so angry and helped me imagine the frustration the Castlewood workers face in dealing with management.

“Seeing all of the hotel workers, union members, community groups, friends and family, I was filled with a deep sense of pride and excitement. We kept chanting and clapping as the golfers tried anything to get to their course and police re-directed traffic.  After three solid hours, our group filled the streets to give speeches, hear from workers and celebrate the strength of our solidarity. Even from my position on the ground, I felt extremely powerful. After some time, a police officer approached me and said, ‘Ma’am, are you ready?’ With the support of everyone around me cheering, I asked, ‘Am I under arrest?’ After he confirmed, I got up, he handcuffed me, led me down the street along the golf course. As I walked, with other arrestees in front and behind, and golfers looking on, I continued chanting ‘No Justice – No peace!’ By the time we reached the police bus, it was just my voice and the voice of the person behind me, but we refused to stop chanting. They took my mugshot and loaded me into a locked cage on the bus and drove us to Santa Rita-Alameda County Jail.

“At the jail, police officers patted me down, lifted up my shirt with male inmates looking on and cat-calling and then loaded the 16 women into a small holding cell with just a concrete bench and a toilet in the center of the room. After several hours I started feeling scared and sick, but the women around me tried to offer their support. We shared our thoughts and recounted all of the funny, frustrating and exciting parts of the action. My experience in jail was unpleasant to say the least, but at no point did I regret participating in the civil disobedience at Castlewood. I felt sincerely happy with the action we had done and the media attention we had attracted.

“Walking out of jail after 8 hours, I was met by the cheers of Local 2850 staff, Castlewood employees and friends. They had been waiting with food and beverages and let me know they had been supporting me the entire time. At the end of a long day, I was exhausted but deeply satisfied with the power of collective action and solidarity. Participating in civil disobedience at the Castlewood Country Club helped me to solidify my understanding of what we’re fighting for and what we’re fighting against.”

Watch the video below and learn more about the contract fight at endthelockout.org and at UNITE HERE Local 2850’s Facebook page.