Keystone Resort ski patrollers set to vote on whether to unionize
Keystone Resort ski patrollers will vote this month on whether to unionize.
The effort follows the unionization of ski patrollers at other ski areas in recent years, including Park City Mountain Resort, Steamboat Resort, Stevens Pass Ski Area and Telluride Ski Resort.
A petition seeking an election for union representation was filed Feb. 16 with the National Labor Relations Board. The employer is listed as Vail Resorts and the petitioner is the Communications Workers of America labor union. According to the notice of election, which was filed Feb. 25, an election will be conducted by secret ballot under the supervision of Paula Sawyer, the regional director of the National Labor Relations Board.
The ballots were mailed to eligible Vail Resorts employees Monday, March 8, and must be received by 3 p.m. March 29 to be counted. All full- and part-time Keystone patrollers and Ski Patrol Specialists are eligible to vote if they were employed during the payroll period that ended Feb. 12.
Voters will indicate on their ballots whether they want to be represented by Communications Workers of America for “purposes of collective bargaining.” Currently, the union represents 700,000 workers in the public and private sectors.
If Keystone patrollers vote to be represented by Communications Workers of America, Vail Resorts and the union would be required to meet to “bargain in good faith” about wages, hours and other subjects, according to the board.
Resort spokesperson Sara Lococo wrote in an email that the resort does not feel unionization would be beneficial.
“Although employees have the right to seek to organize, we fundamentally believe that the best way to foster an inclusive culture where employees feel engaged and empowered is to have a direct and open relationship and not have an outside third party in (the) middle of that relationship,” Lococo wrote.
Keystone Ski Patrol Director Mike Daly commented in an email about the relationship he has with patrollers, stating that the team has a bond and shared commitment to one another and to serving resort guests.
“We’ve made so much progress together, working collectively as a team,” Daly wrote. “I would be disappointed to lose that strong, direct relationship, and I truly don’t think it is in patrol’s best interest to put a third party in between what we’ve built and what we’re working toward.”
Daly said many patrollers are “confused and worried” about what’s happening with the union petition, and he said some patrollers who were not part of the initial organizing campaign have shared with him that they don’t want to be represented by a union but are concerned they might not have a choice if a majority of employees vote in favor of union representation.
“The union organizers say they want a seat at the table, but I believe that they already have it,” Daly wrote. “I also believe that signing up for a union does the opposite of what they’re looking for; it will put an outsider in between their relationship with our company. My hope is that our patrol can continue to work directly together to shape our future and pave our path forward.”
This is not the first time Keystone Ski Patrol has voted to unionize. According to a 2003 article by the Steamboat Pilot & Today, both Keystone and Breckenridge Ski Resort patrollers were previously represented by the American Maritime Officers Union District 2A. Successful union negotiations for Breckenridge were cited in a 2002 Summit Daily News article, which reported patrollers received a 3% raise.
While patrollers at the two resorts were unionized in the past, Lococo wrote in an email that the teams chose to disband the unions. She added that no other departments at either resort are unionized.
There have been successful unionization efforts by employees at Vail-operated ski areas, such as Stevens Pass and Park City, along with failed attempts, including one at Beaver Creek Resort in 2016.
While union membership has been declining for decades, it was up half a percentage point to 10.8% in 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, the report attributed the stat to a large decline in total employment compared with the previous year.
A Keystone patroller who is working to unionize declined to comment until after the vote.
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