Keystone Ski Patrol votes 42-36 against unionization in updated tally

Keystone Resort Ski Patrol Director Mike Daly, from right, is pictured with U.S. Forest Service Snow Ranger Marcus Dreux and another member of the Keystone Resort ski patrol Oct. 12, 2019. The Keystone patrollers voted not to unionize.
Photo by Liz Copan/Studio Copan

The Keystone Ski Patrol voted 42-36 against unionization, according to the updated vote tally.

Ski patrollers at Keystone Resort filed a petition seeking an election for union representation with the National Labor Relations Board in February, an effort following the unionization of ski patrollers at other ski areas in recent years like Park City Mountain Resort, Steamboat Resort and Telluride Ski Resort.

Jonathan Cernanec, a Keystone ski patroller and one of the leaders of the effort, explained that the patrollers wanted to unionize to make ski patrolling a more sustainable career with compensation that reflects the responsibilities that come with the job. The starting hourly wage for a ski patroller at Keystone is $13.25, Cernanec said, one dollar above Vail Resorts’ base pay of $12.25 per hour in Colorado.

The resort was decidedly against the effort. Prior to the vote, spokesperson Sara Lococo wrote in an email that the resort does not feel unionization would be beneficial. She said the resort believes the best way to foster a work environment where employees feel empowered is to have a direct relationship, rather than a third party such as a union group participating.

Ballots for the unionization vote were due last Monday. The ski patrol voted 35-34 against unionization, according to the National Labor Relations Board’s same-day results. Nine ballots were contested and were not included in the original tally, but they have been included in the updated 42-36 vote count.

“Both the company and the union agreed that every vote should be counted and every voice heard,” Lococo wrote in an email.

According to the National Labor Relations Board, ballots can be challenged by the union or employer if a party believes an individual is not eligible to vote. The board’s regional director will then send a letter to the two parties asking for their position on why the ballots were challenged. An investigation or hearing can follow, but this did not happen as a result of challenged ballots in the Keystone vote.

Despite the contested ballots, Cernanec said the union side conceded after the initial count because the race was close enough to where litigation to challenge the outcome wouldn’t be worth it and not having a strong majority of votes for the union isn’t favorable for negotiations. He said even though the outcome wouldn’t change, he wanted all the votes counted.

“We didn’t want there to be a bunch of litigation trying to bring them to light, but we … informed the (Communications Workers of America) lawyers to try to work with Vail to have the rest of those nine votes tallied just in the interest of hearing everybody’s voice,” Cernanec said last Monday. “… Some of those people’s voices who were left out certainly would not have wanted to be.”

Lococo said the the resort is pleased with the outcome of the vote because it means the resort can build relationships with ski patrollers through direct dialogue.

“We all agree there is more work to do, and we look forward to working directly together to improve the employee experience through efforts including the company-wide Patrol Project,” Lococo said. “We are continuously working to invest in our employees and are grateful to get to continue our direct relationship with Keystone ski patrollers.”

The case status for Keystone Ski Patrol’s election is still marked as “open” on the National Labor Relations Board’s website, but the results will be certified if no objections are filed.

The Breckenridge Ski Patrol will vote on whether to unionize this month. Ballots are due for Breckenridge Resort ski patrollers May 3.