Park City Ski Patrollers Union and Vail Resorts fail to reach a wage deal in 47th bargaining session since 2020
Park city â¢ Vacation giant Vail Resorts last summer announced a starting hourly wage of $ 15 for 14 of its ski areas, boosting the wages of thousands of its workers across the United States.
Restaurant staff, lift operators, parking attendants and ticket vendors have all benefited from the policy. But one group has so far been left out: unionized ski patrollers at Park City Mountain, owned by Vail, Utah.
Ski patrollers – who train as first responders to provide mountain medical care and mitigate avalanche danger with explosives and other means – still start at $ 13.25 an hour, making rookie patrollers the lowest paid employees of the Park City station. Second-year patrollers start at $ 14.50 an hour.
The company offered the Park City Professional Ski Patrol Association, a union that represents just under 90% of Park City’s approximately 180 patrollers, a starting salary of $ 15 an hour during contract negotiations that have dragged on for nearly a decade. ‘a year and a half.
But the union has so far rejected the offers, according to Patrick Murphy, the union’s trade manager, arguing that they were below industry standards.
âI think we’ve made it clear that this base salary offer is not an appropriate and fair salary for what our job is – what we do in the field,â said Murphy, who worked on the Park City ski patrol for five years, said.
The union is asking for a starting hourly wage of $ 17 with an increase of one dollar an hour over the first three years of employment, which Murphy said would better reflect the training, site-specific knowledge and l Exposure to the inherent risks that are necessary to run a successful ski patrol program and ensure the safety of clients.
“Name any station in the West that runs an avalanche mitigation program comparable to ours,” he said. âThey make at least $ 17 an hour for rookies. “
On Monday night, the Park City union and management held their 47th bargaining session since August 2020, and they again failed to reach a deal after Vail offered another $ 15 an hour with only slight concessions on incentive pay.
âWe are surprised and disappointed that they continue to revert to that same base salary offer,â said Murphy.
Vail Resorts declined a request for an interview, but said in a written statement that it had “immense respect” for the patrollers at its resorts, including Park City, and had “listened to concerns.”
“In this difficult staffing environment, we are proud that the patrol is one of our best-staffed functions in our complexes,” the statement said. âIn addition, we are delighted that the unionized patrols at two of our resorts have recently overwhelmingly agreed to terms very similar to those we are offering to Park City Ski Patrol. We remain actively engaged in conversations with the Park City Ski Patrol union and, given the progress already made, we certainly believe that all parties should avoid any disruption to this season. “
The solidarity fund offers options
The union launched a solidarity fundraiser on Christmas Day that could compensate union members in the event of a work stoppage or strike, which the union called a “worst case”. As of Wednesday, nearly 1,000 people had contributed a total of $ 56,000 to the fund.
âIt has been amazing for us to see the community come forward and support us so strongly,â said union president Brian Spieker. “We hope that [the fund] is just one more tool in the arsenal that … gives us some options if we have to exercise it.
The existence of the fund has yet to lead to major advances in the negotiation process, although Spieker said communications between the station and the union have improved.
Murphy said the union was still discussing its next steps after failing to reach a deal on Monday.
A Park City Ski Patrol strike would likely shut down Utah’s largest ski resort, which, along with other Vail-owned resorts, is already struggling with understaffing, record numbers of visitors and long lines of ski lifts. Office staff helped keep the lifts running in Park City this year, according to several ski patrollers who spoke to the Salt Lake Tribune, but it would be much more difficult to replace highly trained ski patrollers if they stop. of work.
There are more than 150 unique avalanche trails on the Canyons Resort side of Park City, said patroller Marla Gutmann. After four years of ski patrolling, Gutmann was certified as a route leader on two of these trails.
âIt’s not something you can just learn as a rookie,â Gutmann said. âIt takes a lot of time and training.
Murphy said the current salary structure and the incentives offered to patrollers in Park City have resulted in high turnover and the loss of institutional knowledge.
âYou have to know the nuances of the terrain for medical transport and extrication,â he said. “So these are the things that I’m afraid we will start to lose as the retention decreases – we are losing experience and losing these good patrollers.”
Vail Resorts said it had nearly $ 1.5 billion in cash at the time of its last financial deposits, and it bought several new ski areas last year after pre-selling a record 2.1 million tickets and daily passes for the current ski season.
âSales have increased this year,â said Kate Foley, fourth-year ski patroller and union vice president on the Canyons side of Park City. “It took more money to fight us all this time than it would take to meet us where we think it’s a good place to start.”
Foley added that the negotiations had never lasted so long before.
A $ 2 an hour increase for fewer than 200 employees may not seem like much given Vail’s billions of dollars in annual earnings, but Marshall Steinbaum, assistant professor of economics at the University of Utah, has stated that there may be other considerations involved.
âIt’s probably easy enough for the company to meet the financial demands of this relatively small group of workers, but the precedent is costly for them,â said Steinbaum.
âIn this case,â he added, âit looks like you have a small ‘craft’ union in a large company that employs many workers with fewer skills or fewer labor rights, being immigrants with conditional work permits (or both), and the company does not want the earnings of this union representing a small part of its workforce to influence the demands of other workers.
Vail has a long history of discouraging organizing efforts among his workers, and has hired anti-union consultants to fight union campaigns at Colorado resorts. Last year, the company offered bonuses to many of its employees, but first cut union members, arguing it could not provide bonuses under the union contract. (Vail ultimately turned the tide.)
âOnce a union is formed,â said Steinbaum, âresearch shows that workplaces continually get better paid and shareholders and managers lose.â
Former Vail Resorts CEO Robert Katz, who stepped down in November, received $ 2.8 million in compensation in 2020.
At the turn of the 20th century, Park City was the scene of high profile miners’ strikes organized with the Western Federation of Miners and the Industrial Workers of the World. Union organizer and songwriter Joe Hill worked in a silver mine in Park City before being convicted of murder in a controversial trial and executed by firing squad in Salt Lake City in 1915, triggering nationwide protests.
But Utah has all but lost its tradition of union activism in recent decades, and union membership has declined steadily in the United States since the 1950s. As the Deseret News recently noted, Park City has been the site of the only strike in all of Utah last year when eight non-union movie workers quit for two weeks, ultimately earning a raise of $ 2 an hour.
It remains to be seen whether or not the resort will see more union action in 2022, but Spieker, the union chairman, said the rapid growth of the solidarity fund was encouraging.
âWe are extremely grateful for the immense outpouring of support that we have experienced,â he said. “I think that made [ski patrollers] feel that what they do makes a difference and is appreciated by the community.
Zak Podmore is a Report for America member of the Salt Lake Tribune Corps. Your matching donation to our RFA grant helps her continue to write stories like this; please consider making a tax deductible donation of any amount today by clicking here.