Park City ski patrol union, Vail Resorts failed to reach a salary agreement in the 47th negotiation session since 2020


City Park • Resort giant Vail Resorts announced $15 hourly starting wages for their 14 ski resorts last summer, raising wages for thousands of their workers across the United States.

Restaurant staff, elevator operators, parking attendants and ticket sellers all benefit from this policy. But one group has so far been left behind: the Vail-owned Park City Mountain ski patrols in Utah.

Ski patrols – who are trained as first responders to provide medical care in the mountains and reduce the risk of avalanches by explosives and other means – are still starting at $13.25 per hour, making rookie patrollers the lowest paid employees at the Park City resort. Second year patrols start at $14.50 per hour.

The company offered the Park City Professional Ski Patrol Association, a union that represents just under 90% of the approximately 180 Park City patrolmen, a starting salary of $15 an hour during negotiations. The contract lasted for almost a year and a half.

But the union has so far rejected those offers, according to Patrick Murphy, the union’s chief business officer, arguing that they have fallen below industry standards.

“I think we made it clear that base pay is not a fair and appropriate pay for our work – what we do on the ground,” said Murphy, who worked in Park City’s ski patrol for five years, said.

The union is asking for a starting hourly wage of $17 with increments of one dollar per hour for the first three years on the job, which Murphy says will better reflect training, knowledge site specific and potential exposure to the inherent risks required to operate a successful ski patrol program and keep guests safe.

“Name any resort in the West that has an avalanche mitigation program comparable to ours,” he said. “They’re making at least $17 an hour for rookies.”

On Monday night, the union and Park City management held their 47th session since August 2020, and they again failed to reach an agreement after Vail offered a price of $15 a day. hours again with only a slight concession on incentive pay.

“We are surprised and disappointed that they keep coming back for the same base pay,” says Murphy.

Vail Resorts declined a request for an interview, but said in a written statement it has “tremendous respect” for those patrolling its resorts, including at Park. City, and has “listened to concerns.”

“In this challenging staffing environment, we pride ourselves that patrolling is one of our best staffed functions in our resorts,” the statement said. “In addition, we are pleased that joint patrols at two of our resorts have recently agreed, overwhelmingly, on terms very similar to what 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 that has been made, we firmly believe all parties should avoid any disruption to the with this season. “

Solidarity Fund offers options

The union launched a solidarity fund on Christmas Day can compensate union members in the event of a stoppage or strike, which the union calls a “worst case scenario”. As of Wednesday, nearly 1,000 people have contributed a total of $56,000 to the fund.

“It is unbelievable for us to see the community come out and support us so strongly,” said union president Brian Spieker. “We hope that [the fund] just one more tool in the arsenal… giving us some options if we need to do it. ”

The fund’s existence has yet to lead to any major breakthroughs in the negotiations, although Spieker said communication between the resort and the union has improved.

Murphy said the union was still discussing next steps after failing to reach an agreement on Monday.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) People hit the slopes of Park City Mountain Resort as clear skies and some recent fresh snow drew crowds on Saturday, December 18, 2021.

An attack by the Park City ski patrol will likely shut down Utah’s largest ski resort, along with other Vail-owned resorts. is struggling with staff shortages, record numbers of visitors and long overtime lines. According to several ski patrol officers who spoke to The Salt Lake Tribune, office workers have been assisting with the running of the lifts in Park City this year, but it will be much harder to replace the ski patrols who are employed. In-depth training in case the job stops working.

There are more than 150 unique avalanches on the Canyons Resort side of Park City, says patrolman Marla Gutmann. After four years on ski patrol, Gutmann was certified as a route leader on two of those trails.

“It’s not something you can only learn as a rookie,” Gutmann said. “It takes a lot of time and training.”

Murphy said the current pay structure and incentives for patrol officers at Park City have resulted in high turnover and loss of institutional knowledge.

“You need to know the nuances of the terrain for medical transportation and mining,” he said. “So these are the things that I’m concerned we’re starting to lose as retention goes down – we’re losing experience and losing those good patrols.”

Vail Resorts reported having nearly $1.5 billion in cash at the time of its latest financial filing, and it bought several new ski resorts last year after pre-selling a record 2.1 million day tickets and tickets for the current ski season.

“Sales are up this year,” said Kate Foley, a fourth-year ski patrolman and vice president of unions on the Canyons side of Park City. “It took more money to fight us all this time than it did to have to meet us, where we thought it was a fair place to start.”

Foley added that negotiations had never been this long before.

A $2 an hour increase for fewer than 200 employees doesn’t sound like much compared to Vail’s annual revenue, but Marshall Steinbaum, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Utah, said there could be weightings. other reminder.

“The company could easily meet the financial needs of this relatively small group of workers, but this precedent comes at a cost,” says Steinbaum.

“In this case,” he adds, “it looks like you have a small ‘craft’ union in a large company that employs many workers with less skill or less rights to work, who are the immigrant has a conditional work permit (or both), and the company does not want any union-representing interests of a small portion of its workforce to affect the claims that these other workers will give out. ”

Vail has a long history of discouraging unionization efforts among its workers and has hired anti-labor consultants to combat union lobbying at resorts in New York. Colorado. Last year, the company rewarded many of its employees but initially cut union members, argued that it could not offer bonuses under the terms of the union contract. (Vail eventually reversed course.)

“Once a union is formed,” says Steinbaum, “research shows that the workplace is permanently better paid, and shareholders and executives lose out.”

Former Vail Resorts CEO Robert Katz, who stepped down in November, earned $2.8 million in compensation in 2020.

In the early 20th century, Park City was the site of intense mining strikes organized with the Western Federation of Miners and the World Industrial Workers. Labor organizer and musician Joe Hill works at a silver mine in Park City before being found guilty of murder in a controversial trial and executed by a firing squad in Salt Lake City in 1915., sparking nationwide protests.

But Utah has lost its tradition of fighting labor in recent decades, and union membership has been steadily declining in the United States since the 1950s. As Deseret News recently reported. note, Park City was the site of the only strike in the entire state of Wyoming last year when eight non-union movie theater employees walked away for two weeks, ultimately getting a $2 hourly raise.

Whether the resort town will see more labor action in 2022 or not, but Spieker, the union president, said the solidarity fund’s rapid growth has improved.

“We are extremely grateful for the overwhelming support we have experienced,” he said. “I think it did [ski patrollers] feel like what they do makes a difference and is appreciated by the community. ”

Zak Podmore is a Report to the US corps member for The Salt Lake Tribune. Your donation to match our RFA grant will help him continue writing stories like this; Please consider creating a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking here. Park City ski patrol union, Vail Resorts failed to reach a salary agreement in the 47th negotiation session since 2020

Yasmin Harisha

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