Steven Greenhut: 'Power Drunk' Agency Slams Small Winery


creative commons

In a story reported widely in northern California last month, agents from the Department of Industrial Relations showed up unannounced at the tiny Westover Winery, in Castro Valley, and slapped its owners with more than $115,000 in fines and assessments for using volunteer workers. Westover is a typical hobby winery. A big winery no doubt spills more than this East Bay winery produces. Its annual profits are $11,000. Steven Greenhut talked to three of Westover's former volunteers. Volunteers typically are well-heeled retirees with plenty of health insurance. "I have so much fun out here, I should actually have to pay Bill," said Ken Tatum, a retired superintendent at the San Francisco shipyards. Unfortunately, owner Bill Smyth tells Greenhut that he is financially well off and is doing this for fun, so he's decided to shut down rather than face the not-so-fun prospect of fighting the state.