A local’s take on the problems at the storied West Virginia resort.
“The Greenbrier has struggled with the union for years. Another problem has been that management has fleeced them too. If a person works for the Greenbrier from the President to a store manager, they have full use of the facilities for a cost of zero. If a person is a union employee and works as a bread girl, they make $50,000 to $60,000 a year while the person who works in the sales dept (selling conferences primarily) makes $30,000 to $40,000.
I am not sure if you know that The Greenbrier (a unit of the CSX Railroad (NYSE: CSX) has been only using half of their rooms, because they have laid off most of the union employees. Right now they only have 70 chefs in their employ. They are unable to accommodate to full capacity.
Before the stand off with the union, the only time the house count was low was during the January to March season, otherwise they were pretty much fully booked. They have always lost money, just more like 5 or 8 million. When all the layoffs began, all the store managers were told not to buy one more piece of merchandise, box or tissue etc. until further notice. Someone who owns the shoe store opened another store in Roanoke because business was so low.
The stand off with the union is the problem. What the union is angry about is that they are not getting health insurance for what they think is an acceptable price. Keep in mind that union employees used to pay zero, and now there would, if accepted, be a co-pay of $150 a month deducted from their paychecks. It would be interesting to see what a bread girl would make at the Ponte Vedra Inn and Club; as I recall, they don’t have unions there.
Unions know no else
The union employees at The Greenbrier have worked there for generations and have no comparisons in the hospitality industry; this is all they have ever known. The Greenbrier cannot afford the union, and yet it is stuck, because they are dealing with a union. Apparently, if CSX’s Greenbrier goes bankrupt and closes for a year they can break the union. Our guess around here is that they are involving Goldman to go along the motions “That the Greenbrier can’t be saved” so as to close and break the union.
There are also rumors that they have sold to MGM. If they do close, I hope it’s like the war, and the new Greenbrier re-opens after a year and has a coming out like never before. There is another issue with the county vote for gaming at The Greenbrier, which did not pass 6 or 7 years ago, however it did pass this past November. The union pushed it in a big way. But the first time it was allowed by the West Virginia statehouse and senate they only had 3 years to put it into play if you will. Now to allow gaming, it would have to go back to the house and senate and be voted on again, which could take forever.”
Note: This is our response to our first post on The Greenbrier; we thought it had some great insights. The writer is somebody who knows the place intimately, loves the Greenbrier, but he wishes to remain anonymous.