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Deadline Detroit: Stalled Union Contract Talks Could Tarnish PGA Event At Detroit Golf Club, Lead to 'Showdown in Motown'

By Oona Friedland

All eyes will be on Detroit as The Rocket Mortgage Classic hosted by the Professional Golf Association kicks off at the Detroit Golf Club in the Palmer Park area on Tuesday. 

Not everything is on par though.

The seven groundskeepers responsible for the greens at the private golf club have been working without a contract since June of 2018, and their heated contract negotiations seem to have no end in sight.

That could mean bad publicity for the high-profile event. The union intends to "demonstrate" during the event, but declined to be more specific.

"We’re all part of the revitalization with Mayor Duggan and Dan Gilbert. We’re proud of how our city is coming back.” said Kevin Moore, president of Teamsters Local 299. “We’re going to stand up for these people. We’re going to make sure these families are protected.”

 If the terms of the agreement were right, our members would sign a five-year agreement, which would go a long way toward securing labor peace for the course’s future PGA events. Detroit Golf Club president Andy Glassberg seems intent on forcing a ‘Showdown in Motown’ rather than doing what is right for these workers.”

Local 299 is representing the unionized workers who are seeking a 3 percent raise in hourly wages. Moore says that works out to 45 cents an hour, or an increase of $40,000 over the next four years of their contract.

Negotiations haven't gone very well. The union filed an unfair labor practice charge against the course on May 17, 2019 for failure to negotiate in good faith. Then last week, Andy Glassberg, Detroit Golf Club president, walked out of negotiations last week after meeting for 2 hours, according to the union. 

The Detroit Golf Club declined to comment for this story.

The Teamsters, in a press release emphasized the important contribution the groundskeepers have made:

“Their tireless work and dedication kept the course in such pristine condition that the Professional Golf Association (PGA) chose the Detroit Golf Club as the host for 2019 Rocket Mortgage Classic. Despite their exceptional performance on the job, the workers have seen their pay and benefits slashed over the last 10 years.”

2019 marks the first year a PGA event will be held in the city of Detroit. The PGA has also agreed to a four-year contract with the club, ensuring the Rocket Mortgage Classic will return to the DGC until 2023.

In 2015 the groundskeepers took pay reductions of 15-20 percent and are still under the same wage freeze. The groundskeepers today make $13.50 an hour.

Moore says their retirement benefits were eliminated, and they also saw severe reductions in their healthcare coverage.

“These guys are all team players, they wanted the golf club to succeed and their dedication and work ethic has demonstrated this over the years,” Moore said in a statement. “But the Detroit Golf Club is now enjoying a period of success and can no longer claim poverty. Membership is growing, revenue is up thanks to a $9,000 assessment to their top 700 members that that put $6.3 million in their coffers, and the course is launching a $4.5 million club house renovation project. It’s time to take care of the workers that got them to this point.” 

Tickets have already sold out for the national event Saturday and Sunday. The Rocket Mortgage Classic is expected to bring substantial amounts of business to Downtown’s hospitality and culinary markets, as well as the Detroit Golf Club.

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