PCMR ski patrollers overwhelmingly authorize a strike if talks with Vail Resorts collapse (updated)
Union leader says latest proposal from the Colorado firm ‘came up well short’
The membership of the union that represents ski patrollers at Park City Mountain Resort overwhelmingly voted to authorize a strike should negotiations with Vail Resorts, the Colorado-based owner of the resort, collapse.
The Park City Professional Ski Patrol Association said on Monday 98.2% of the votes were in support of the strike authorization. According to the union, 168 out of the 171 people who voted backed the authorization. There are 185 ski patrollers eligible for union membership, meaning the vast majority cast a vote.
Patrick Murphy, a Canyons Village-based ski patroller and the business manager for the union, said on Monday the 48-hour online vote closed Sunday night.
The authorization vote was needed prior to a strike by the union members. Murphy said the authorization, though, is not a signal of an imminent strike, and he acknowledged the union understands the broad impact a work stoppage would potentially have on the community. He said the union is “doing everything we can” to reach an agreement to avoid a strike.
The key point in the talks is the current starting wage of $15 per hour. The union argues the wage is too low for ski patrollers, who are trained for specialized duties like treating victims of accidents on the slopes, evacuating lifts and avalanche control.
The Vail Resorts side says it has offered a proposal to the union that is competitive with other mountain resorts, including wage increases, future increases that would be automatic and retroactive pay to cover hours that have been worked during the current ski season.
The union in December rejected a proposal from Vail Resorts.
The two sides held their 49th bargaining session Monday evening. Murphy on Tuesday said Vail Resorts offered the union a contract extension through the end of the current ski season rather than a new multiyear contract desired by the membership. The extension offer did not include a wage increase for the ski patrol other than one the union previously rejected, he said, describing that the proposal from Vail Resorts “came up well short.”
“They didn’t come ready to talk about base wages,” he said.
Murphy acknowledged, though, the union is pleased with year-end bonuses from Vail Resorts.
Murphy said another bargaining session is possible on Wednesday with the union hoping an agreement can be reached then. He reiterated on Tuesday the union wants to avoid a strike.
The most recent contract negotiated between the two sides ended in November of 2020. It was a two-year deal.
Vail Resorts on Monday afternoon issued a statement. It read, in part: “We continue to have productive conversations with the union,” and it noted the bargaining session that was held on Monday evening. Another statement regarding the session on Monday evening was not available by midday on Tuesday.
A strike by the PCMR ski patrol would be an especially high-profile action by the labor movement in a community where picket lines are rare. The timing is not clear, but a strike by the ski patrollers in coming weeks would coincide with a stretch of the season that is expected to be busy at PCMR and in the wider Park City-area tourism industry.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated with additional information.
Fire down below
Like peanut butter goes with jelly, the record-breaking snowfall at Park City ski resorts this winter means a heightened and prolonged risk of avalanches.
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