|Charleston Daily Mail,
W.Va.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
April 16, 2009 - Employees of the four-star Greenbrier resort have long provided their guests with a refuge from troubled times, a kind of dream world that kept worries out of sight, out of mind.
Now members of the nine unions that represent 909 of The Greenbrier's 1,318 employees find themselves facing brutal reality.
The market for luxury resorts has contracted badly. The Greenbrier has lost $90 million over five years and owes its owner, the CSX Corp., $91 million.
Greenbrier County's largest employer lost $35 million in 2008 alone. The resort and its unions have failed for a year to reach new contracts.
The Greenbrier is off the rails. It cannot continue as it has.
Earlier this year, CSX pulled the plug, putting The Greenbrier under the protection of the bankruptcy court pending a sale to the Marriott Corp.
But Marriott, an experienced operator in the field, is not interested unless members of the nine unions agree to terms it finds acceptable.
Employees must either strike deals with Marriott or -- if it backs off -- whatever mystery buyer might show up at a June 12 auction set up by Bankruptcy Judge Kevin R. Huennekens in Richmond.
This week, the Security Police Fire Professionals of America, which represents 22 security, police and firefighters at the resort, did agree to a new contract.
Here's hoping that no matter how painful, the other unions will also reach new agreements.
Marriott is an experienced operator with a track record of success in the hospitality industry. There are opportunities in re-aligning one's fortunes with a strong corporation like that.
A future without such an alliance, on the other hand, looks very bleak indeed.
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