Breckenridge ski patrol union reaches contract agreement with Vail Resorts
After voting to unionize in May, Breckenridge ski patrol has made it through contract negotiations with Vail Resorts.
Voting on the new contract closed Monday, Dec. 13, and was ratified Tuesday, Dec. 14, with a “near unanimous vote.”
Ryan Anderson, a Breckenridge ski patroller who helped lead unionizing efforts, said negotiating with Vail went quite well. He said local management at the resort has kept its word in supporting patrollers throughout the process.
“Them sticking to that and wanting to work with us has been a big sigh of relief on our part,” Anderson said. “Our goal was to be effective and get a contract and get things back to working normal as soon as possible.”
Anderson was one of seven patrollers in the union’s interim bargaining committee, which worked directly with Vail representatives to negotiate the new contract. He said he is happy with how everything worked out in Breckenridge, especially considering ski patrollers in Park City have now gone through 44 bargaining sessions with Vail Resorts.
Before entering negotiations, Anderson said there was some discomfort among co-workers at Breckenridge out of fear of getting “stonewalled” like he said is happening in Park City.
“We’re very satisfied with how easy it was,” Anderson said. “We feel it is due in part to our focus and the goals that we had set but also due to recent changes in local management here at Breckenridge.”
Breckenridge patroller Ryan Dineen also served on the bargaining committee and spoke highly about how smooth the process was.
“It was a positive process for our negotiating committee, and we specifically wanted to thank the local leadership at Breckenridge Ski Resort for making that possible,” Dineen said. “Without the help of those individuals, I don’t think this process would have been as effective.”
One of the folks both Anderson and Dineen credited is Hunter Mortensen, the new senior manager of Breckenridge ski patrol.
“We are happy to have come to a quick, collaborative agreement and to have been able to work through the contract process respectfully and positively,” Mortensen said in a statement from Vail Resorts. “Each side listened to the other at the bargaining table and acted in good faith.
“I’d like to thank everyone involved for working hard to finalize this agreement.”
Anderson said he and his colleagues are getting more from their contract than they would have if they had not unionized.
“We feel the more patrols that take this path, the stronger we become as a profession and the more respected we will become as a profession,” Anderson said.
While Anderson said nothing will change drastically in day-to-day operations, the new contract includes wage increases for all patrollers, patroller access to employee housing, guaranteed parking closer to work outside of high capacity days, and required education and training for all patrollers. Ski patrollers are also no longer at-will employees, which means they cannot be fired without due process.
“A lot of things have been taken from a verbal promise and understanding between us and our director and have been written down and codified,” Anderson said.
Anderson said getting through the contract process was the first big hurdle after officially unionizing. Now, the union will focus on organizational building and electing long-term leadership.
“It’s important that we point out that this process can be handled with mutual respect, keeping in mind that it can be mutually beneficial,” Dineen said. “These processes don’t have to be contentious and damaging to either side.”
Vail Resorts officials said in a statement that while they continue to believe “a direct and open relationship is the best way to foster a strong employee experience rather than through a union,” the resort is pleased to have reached a multiyear agreement with the union.
“Now that the contract has been ratified, we look forward to moving forward with our Breck patrollers to together provide our guests an experience of a lifetime this season and beyond,” the statement read.
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