In narrow vote, PCMR patrollers unionize

Ski patrollers at Park City Mountain Resort chose to unionize Monday in a narrow 97-94 vote, according to a preliminary tally.

The vote means all of the nearly 200 patrollers at the resort — comprising both the Park City base area and Canyons Village base area — will be joining the United Professional Ski Patrols of America, a union chapter that also includes patrollers from Colorado ski areas Telluride Ski Resort, Crested Butte Mountain Resort and Steamboat Ski Resort. The National Labor Relations Board, which oversaw the vote, is expected to certify the results within about a week.

"For us, it’s huge," said Johnny Miner, a hill captain with the patrol on the Canyons Village side of the resort. "It means that we’re going to be able to continue collective bargaining as a unit and have a seat at the table and a collective voice."

Before Vail Resorts merged Park City Mountain Resort and Canyons Resort into one property this ski season, the Canyons Resort ski patrol was unionized while their counterparts at PCMR were not. The Canyons Professional Ski Patrol Association’s failure to reach a new contract with Vail Resorts, along with the company’s decision to merge the patrols into a single unit this winter, essentially signaled the end of the union’s influence.

Members from the association then filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board that led to Monday’s vote on whether to form a new union comprising all patrollers at PCMR.

Patroller Pete Earle, who served as the president of the Canyons Professional Ski Patrol Association, issued a prepared statement Tuesday morning celebrating the victory.

"We are proud of the success that the Canyons Professional Ski Patrol Association and Canyons have enjoyed together for 15 years, and that the Association will continue to be a part of the team under the newly combined Park City Mountain Resort," the statement read. "We want what is best for our patrollers, the resort’s guests and Park City — and we believe that having the Association and our members at the table ultimately will result in a better experience for patrollers and guests alike."

Leading up to Monday’s decision, Vail Resorts had been clear that it saw a "No" vote as being in the best interests of all involved. However, Bill Rock, chief operating officer of PCMR, said the company is ready to negotiate with the new union when its bargaining team is formed. He added that despite the vote not yet being certified, Vail Resorts is viewing the result as final, pending word from the National Labor Relations Board.

"Our job through the whole process was to inform our team about the decision they were going to make," he said. "I think we’ve made it clear from the beginning that we respected their right to vote for union representation. We knew there were two pretty sizable camps, but now we’re prepared to move forward in this new environment and bargain in good faith."

Ballots were anonymous, so it’s unclear how patrollers from each base area voted. But Miner said many on the Park City side of the resort were unhappy with the idea of unionizing.

"I think they’re extremely disappointed and feel like their way (of doing things) has been threatened," he said. "If there’s any way at all we can reach out to those guys and send them an olive branch and try to heal this rift, that’s the biggest thing we need to do to move forward. We want to create a family with them."

Miner added that the Canyons Professional Ski Patrol Association had 100-percent participation among patrollers last year, despite Utah state law that does not make union involvement obligatory.

"The fact that everyone has joined on (the Canyons Village) side speaks to the satisfaction that people have with the collective bargaining voice," he said. "It’s a productive thing. It seems to me that everyone has experienced it firsthand is for it, and the people on the Park City side who haven’t experienced it have a misconception of what it is and they’re against it. Moving forward, I hope their experience changes that perception."

Now that the vote is over, Rock said, PCMR is eager to move forward and get back to focusing on providing a top-notch experience for guests. Miner agreed, saying patrollers will continue to do all they can to ensure the resort has a successful ski season.

"It’s extremely important that people realize that our union is not anti-company," he said. "We want Vail (Resorts) to succeed. If they don’t succeed, we don’t have jobs. All we want to do is make the best possible patrol we can and the best possible work environment."


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