Editorial: Park City Mountain workers organize
While headlines have been full over the past several years with tales of union organizing at American companies, this is still, in historical perspective, more of a man-bites-dog phenomenon than anything like the heyday of U.S. organized labor.
The percentage of American workers belonging to a union actually peaked 68 years ago, at a hair under 35%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The total number of American union members hit its all-time high 43 years ago, in 1979, at 21 million workers. Two years later, in 1981, President Ronald Reagan fired 11,359 striking air-traffic controllers, accelerating what has been a long downward slide for American unions ever since. By 1991, when the eminent American labor lawyer Thomas Geoghegan published his memoir “Which Side Are You On?”, it was subtitled “Trying to Be For Labor When It’s Flat On Its Back” — and no one thought he was exaggerating.
In 2021 ,the U.S. union membership rate was down to 10.3%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the total number of union members was just 14 million. Union membership in the private sector had fallen to 6.1%, less than one fifth that of public sector workers, at 33.9%.
And yet, union workers averaged 10-30% higher pay than non-union workers in the U.S. after controlling for individual, job, and labor market characteristics, states the Congressional Research Service. That alone could explain why some U.S. workers would be for organized labor today, like those who have recently organized at nearly 200 Starbucks coffee shops and one Amazon warehouse.
Add to that list ski patrollers at Park City Mountain — and now Park City Mountain lift mechanics and electricians, who voted to unionize Tuesday. “By unionizing we are no longer passengers, but active participants in the direction Park City Mountain Resort and Vail Resorts Management Company are headed,” Christopher Field, an intermediate electrician at Park City Mountain, said in a press release this week from the Communications Workers of America.
Field and his coworkers were driven to organize by the growing lack of affordable housing in Park City, among other things, alongside Vail Resorts’ continued profits.
We commend the Park City Mountain lift mechanics and electricians for the dignity with which they’ve conducted a successful drive in trying times. We also commend the stated attitude of Deirdra Walsh, Park City Mountain’s new vice president and chief operating officer, who has been clear and forthright in her role so far, something many Parkites appreciate.
With such dispositions, we hope contract negotiations with the lift mechanics and electricians will reach a smooth, speedy and fruitful conclusion. It will be a tiny step toward restoring the power of organized labor in America and even in Park City, but a step nonetheless, and one we’ll be heartened to see.
That same snow is leaving the mule deer that share our valleys on the edge of starvation, a place that they know in their bones — and leading to people feeding them, a controversial practice even by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
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