As the first-ever PGA Tour event within the city limits of Detroit is set to begin Thursday, local union members from Teamsters Local 299 are now picketing over a contract negotiation dispute.
Seven union employees at Detroit Golf Club, the host venue for the PGA tournament, including five groundsworkers and two mechanics, had been asking for an increase in pay and health benefits in negotiations that have lasted over a year.
The PGA tournament officially begins on Thursday. While the union is not calling the situation a strike, the Detroit Golf Club has a contingency plan that includes non-union groundskeepers to maintain the course throughout the week. The PGA had no comment on the matter.
Teamster 299 president Kevin Moore said he believes the union members are not being unreasonable in their requests, asking for a $0.45 increase per hour plus health benefits, but the club has been unwilling to come to terms.
"In 2009 when the club was suffering loss of membership and the economy was down, our members had been on that property since 1971," Moore said. "In 2009, our workers took a pay freeze, then in 2015 the golf club came back to the members and took away 15 to 20 percent of their wages, they cut their health care and got rid of their retirement. As of today, after a year of negotiations, with nothing from the golf club, they offered a $500 signing bonus, which does nothing to a member's paycheck."
Detroit Golf Club president Andrew Glassberg, who has been involved with the negotiations for the club, says Detroit Golf Club currently pays its groundskeepers above-market rates, what he believes are the highest rates in Michigan. He said that the club provides health care benefits to the groundskeepers and the employees have seen wages and benefits increase over the last 10 years.
"We offered our employees a new contract with an attractive wage and benefits package," Glassberg said in a statement. "Which in total is more than 4 percent higher per year than their current contract, a 17 percent increase over the life of the contract."
Moore said the two sides have used a federal mediator that was present at a June 14 meeting, but the session did not bring them any closer to an agreement.
"This could be done in a phone call," Moore said. "We're proud of this city, this is absolutely uncalled for and ridiculous to even do this. As they say in basketball, the ball is in their court. All (Glassberg) has to do is make a phone call."
Glassberg countered: "We believe our offer is more than fair. We are ready to reach a resolution with the union, as we have since the contract expired roughly one year ago. Unfortunately, the union canceled bargaining sessions, delayed the negotiation process and chose this historic event to make its statement."