After six months of tough
negotiations, the 229-year-old Greenbrier resort and the
Greenbrier Council of Labor Unions signed a no-strike, no-lockout
agreement in late June. The White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., property
had lost a significant amount of group revenue as many clients
opted to cut and run rather than face the possibility of a union
walkout during a meeting or event.
The pact, which allows both sides to
move forward in negotiations without the threat of a walkout, will
remain in place until Jan. 4, 2009, or until new contracts are
signed, whichever comes first.
Labor problems for The Greenbrier,
which is owned by Jacksonville, Fla.-based railroad giant CSX
Corp., began on Jan. 31, when nine union contracts and the master
agreement for the resort’s circa 1,100 union employees expired and
a strike was authorized, which meant employees could stage a
walkout at any time.
In the months that followed,
negotiations between Greenbrier officials and the labor council,
which represents all nine hotel unions, trudged on with little
success, despite the aid of two federal mediators, spurring some
groups to cancel or relocate their meetings.
One longtime client, the Washington,
D.C.-based Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers, relocated three
meetings, including its October annual convention, which alone
represents some 3,500 room nights.
“A threat of a walkout is enough to
make any self-respecting planner pull the plug,” said CIAB
president Ken Crerar before the agreement was reached. He noted
that the economic impact of the group’s pullout was “huge,”
although he declined to reveal the dollar amount.
A spokesperson for The Greenbrier said
the resort did its best during negotiations to provide updates on
the labor situation to groups with scheduled meetings.
While the property declined to reveal
the scope of lost business, Greenbrier County Commissioner Lowell
Rose estimated the figure at $12 million. The resort is Greenbrier
County’s main employer, with a work force of 1,600, and generates
an average of $600,000 to $700,000 in annual tax revenue for the
Greenbrier County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
According to Crerar, the need to pull
CIAB’s meetings, two of which required relocating 800 attendees to
The Homestead nearby, angered him, because the group has a solid
95-year history of meeting at The Greenbrier. The situation
prompted him to take out full-page ads in two local newspapers, the
Register-Herald and the West Virginia Daily News,
urging both sides to resolve their issues and get back to
At least for now, they have.