Beaver Creek ski instructors working to unionize |

Beaver Creek ski instructors working to unionize

If Beaver Creek ski instructors unionize, it could be the nation's only ski instructors union. They're working with the AFL-CIO's Communications Workers of America to form their union. The CWA already represents ski patrols in four ski resorts.
Daily file photo |

EAGLE COUNTY — A group of Beaver Creek ski instructors is trying to organize a union and has signed up with the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations to help them do it.

Beaver Creek Instructors United is getting a hand from the AFL-CIO’s Communications Workers of America, based in Denver.

“This business is inherently dangerous, and they’re shooting their wounded,” said Al Kogler, the CWA’s union organizer in this region of the country. “They put their lives on hold for months to provide a great and safe guest experience.”

Vail Resorts said it treats its employees fairly and with respect.

“We place the highest value on the employee experience at Beaver Creek and work diligently to ensure that we have a competitive package of benefits and wages, and that we treat all of our employees fairly and with respect,” said Fred Rumford, senior director of skier services for Beaver Creek Resort. “We value and incorporate all of the feedback that we receive from our employees, as evident by the many initiatives we’ve undertaken on wages, benefits and other employment perks in recent years.”

Pay raises already

In an email sent Monday to Beaver Creek ski instructors, Vail Resorts trumpeted a 55-cent pay raise to $10.50 an hour for non-certified instructors. Level 3 certified instructors will get a $4.05 pay increase, to $18 an hour.

Union dues are 1.29 percent of your base wage, about $6.50 a week for Beaver Creek ski instructors, Kogler said.

Clients are often assigned an instructor who is paid less. A less expensive instructor pushes more of that money to VR’s profits, he pointed out.

To be assigned a class, instructors must wait.

“They stand and smile and hope someone picks them, the same way you’d hope someone picks you for the dodgeball team,” he said.

Getting unionized

To get to a union vote, organizers must get signatures from 30 percent of Beaver Creek’s ski instructors saying they want a union and that they want AFL-CIO’s local Communications Workers of America union to run it.

Generally, companies will try to hammer the workers and buy more time, Kogler said.

“It’s about power and who exercises it,” he said. “They want to nip it in the bud and make sure a vote never happens.”

Retribution is illegal

Under federal law, a company cannot take any negative action against you for your support of a union or lack of support.

If workers in your shop unionize, you don’t necessarily have to join.

If a majority of Beaver Creek ski instructors vote to make the CWA their union, the union begins negotiating on behalf of all the instructors, whether they voted for the union or not.

The federal government says unions must represent workers whether they’re members or not.

To counter that, unions came up with a fee you pay instead of union dues.

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