pine hollow country club
Pine Hollow Country Club (Photo by Ed Shin)

The Pine Hollow Country Club fired on June 3 its two remaining groundskeepers without warning, prompting the workers’ union to file charges with the National Labor Relations Board.

The two men fired were Juan Caba and Yunardo Nuñez. These workers are represented by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). SEIU has 2 million workers in sectors including healthcare and property management.

“I don’t know how I will pay the mortgage on our new house,” Nuñez tells the Press. “We deserve better treatment.”

Caba worked at Pine Hollow for 20 years before he was terminated. There, he was responsible for the upkeep of the 18-hole golf course as well as the eight tennis courts. During the season, he and the other groundskeepers worked 12-hour days starting at 5:30 a.m., six days a week.

The club used to employ nine groundskeepers, all of whom belonged to the union. One of the men died from Covid complications. The remaining eight were called and asked to return to work at the start of the season. Then, six of them were informed they were no longer being asked to return, union officials say. This was a violation of their union contract.

Pine Hollow was recently purchased by Manhattan-based real estate firm Wilshire Enterprises Inc., in a process that the union claims to have been shut out of.

“We immediately reached out to them and said that we wanted to work with them,” says Assistant to the President Lenore Friedlaender. “We tried to call and track them down, but they never returned a phone call, a letter, an email. We reached out to the attorney who was handling the transaction, and nothing.”

Friedlaender was able to get in contact with one of the co-owners by calling another club in his ownership.

“I called there, and he called back,” Friedlaender says. “The conversation was very short. I started explaining that the groundskeepers wanted to keep working there. He said, ‘I’m not going to talk to you,’ and hung up.”

Caba adds, “Everyone has the right to buy and sell their businesses as they see fit, but the club should have been responsible and told us what was going to happen to our jobs. Whenever you’d ask a question, they would shrug and say, ‘I don’t know.’”

The terminated groundskeepers were the only unionized groundskeepers on the Island, according to the union. When the union representative and employees returned to the club after their termination in order to get some clarification, they realized that they had been replaced by several nonunion workers.

“Discrimination in hiring is illegal, and discriminating due to union membership is illegal,” Friedlaender said.

Neither Wilshire Enterprises nor the Pine Hollow Country Club responded to multiple attempts for contact.

SEIU filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board on June 4.

Caba says, “I felt terrible. It was a shock. I left my youth there at the club. Now, I have to scramble to make my daily bread. If I can’t work there, I have to work somewhere. So I’m running around trying to figure out what I can do to make some money.”

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