Vail Resorts, PCMR ski patrollers union reach agreement
November 18, 2016
A year after ski patrollers at Park City Mountain Resort elected to unionize in a high-profile vote, they have ratified a two-year collective bargaining agreement with Vail Resorts, the company that owns the skiing destination that now includes both PCMR and the former Canyons Resort.
Days after the deal was finalized, patrollers who negotiated the deal on behalf of the union — the Park City Professional Ski Patrol Association, part of the Communications Workers of America — and Vail Resorts, alike, were lauding it as a fair compromise and a good foundation for relations going forward.
"We're pleased to have reached an agreement with Park City Ski Patrol," said Bill Rock, PCMR's chief operating officer, in an email response through a Vail Resorts spokesperson. "Both sides expended a tremendous amount of time, energy and effort over many, many months and meetings. After respectful, good-faith bargaining with Park City Ski Patrol and the Communications Workers of America, the agreement provides for wages, benefits and work conditions that are consistent with what we provided previously and offer our other employees across our U.S. resorts."
According to the Communication Workers of America, PCMR's nearly 200 patrollers voted to ratify the agreement by a two-to-one margin. It includes a number of provisions patrollers identified as particularly important, such as expanded professional development, a joint patrol-management safety committee, a grievance process and the requirement of just cause in disciplinary actions.
Colton Fonnesbeck, a mountain safety patroller and member of the union's negotiating team, said the contract addresses many of the patrollers' top concerns. Additionally, he said the discussions set a positive precedent for future negotiations.
"It was a very collaborative process," he said. "A lot of the things, it was both sides of the table working together to figure out how to get the contract to say exactly what we wanted it to say. Obviously, with any (collective bargaining agreement), there's going to be points of contention, but it really felt like everyone at the table was legitimately trying to come to an agreement."
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The Park City Professional Ski Patrol Association formed last year, when Vail Resorts merged Canyons Resort with PCMR. Patrollers at Canyons Resort had been unionized for more than decade, but that union collapsed when it failed to reach an agreement with Vail Resorts and the company decided to combine the patrol units at each base area of the resort into a single entity.
Patrollers on the Canyons Village side then decided to form a new union to represent all PCMR patrollers. The vote to do so narrowly passed, despite Vail Resorts urging patrollers not to unionize.
Julie Edwards, a lead patroller at the Canyons Village base area, and another member of the union's negotiating team, said she is largely pleased with the contract, though it is not perfect.
"I am very happy that we have a contract," she said. "I think this is a solid foundational contract that we have a lot of opportunities and a lot of ways to build upon. But I think that's the thing we have to keep in mind — this is a first contract, versus what we had at (Canyons Resort), which was a mature contract."
Last year, the vote to unionize was split, nearly evenly, by base area, with patrollers from the Park City side — who had never been unionized — expressing apprehension about the decision. Stu Johnson, a lead patroller in the Park City base area who helped negotiate the contract, said many of his colleagues had been pleased with salary raises and benefits Vail Resorts had given them when it bought PCMR and didn't see a need to unionize.
Many of those same patrollers, despite maintaining good relationships with the company, have come to understand the benefits of union protection, he said.
"It took a bit of a process to realize that, as you move forward, just because an employer is treating you well doesn't mean it's not a good thing to have that contract," Johnson said.
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