Unified PCMR ski patrol stands to benefit from union representation
Kudos to the leaders of the former Canyons Professional Ski Patrol Association for the commitment they have shown to their colleagues and their profession. Like the heralded labor organizers of the past, they took a public stand to improve the working conditions of others, even at the risk of losing their jobs.
Monday night, a handful of dedicated patrollers won a close vote to form a new union encompassing all of the patrollers at the recently combined Park City and Canyons resorts. Previously only the Canyons patrol was organized.
In this case, of course, there were no sweat shops or violent clashes between union workers and scabs, nor were there any specific complaints about mistreatment. But the patrollers did face down a big corporation, one that is now running the largest ski area in the country, Park City Mountain Resort.
Under the Vail Resorts umbrella, PCMR made it clear they did not want the patrollers to unionize. To their credit though, corporate managers were respectful in their opposition and, since the vote, have pledged to negotiate with the new union in good faith.
It is important to note, however, that nearly half of the mountain’s patrollers were against forming a union. Since the votes were cast anonymously, it is impossible to determine whether the split followed the resorts’ boundaries or not — whether PCMR patrollers preferred to be independent and Canyon patrollers liked the support of their union. Or whether there was some crossover — Canyons patrollers who were not satisfied with their union representation or PCMR patrollers who wished they had more bargaining clout.
Regardless, the ball is now in the proponents’ court — to prove to their coworkers that they made the right decision.
At their best, unions serve as a bridge between management and employees, brokering agreements that preserve the company’s profitability while also ensuring workers are safe, well-trained and well paid. And when those conditions are met, everyone benefits — including consumers.
That is particularly true when it comes to emergency care at a winter resort, where a patroller’s skill level can literally mean the difference between life and death.
Whether being unionized has made a difference or not, Canyons patrollers have shown they are united in their mission to protect their resort’s guests. The previous union chapter at Canyons weathered three ownership turnovers and provided consistent leadership for 15 years.
Now, with two resorts combined as one, it is even more important to ensure those we entrust with our guests’ safety — and our own — have the support they need to demand fair wages, expert training and an independent panel to hear any grievances that may arise.
It is not a light responsibility and those who offered to shoulder that burden have a big job ahead. We admire them for taking it on.