Beaver Creek instructors won’t unionize
By the numbers
288: Approximate number of full-time ski instructors at Beaver Creek.
87: Number of instructor signatures needed on a unionization election petition
472: Approximate number of part-time ski instructors at Beaver Creek.
87: Number of signatures needed from that group for an election petition.
Source: National Labor Relations Board, case 27-RC-170320
BEAVER CREEK — An effort to unionize ski instructors at Beaver Creek ended Thursday with organizers withdrawing their petition to the National Labor Relations Board.
That withdrawal comes following a Monday record decision by the board, which governs union organizing in the U.S. That decision followed a March 3 hearing at the Avon Public Library.
Representatives for Vail Resorts and the Communications Workers of America — which represented Beaver Creek Instructors United, the group seeking to organize — argued two very different points.
Union attorneys wanted to organize only full-time instructors at Beaver Creek, a group of about 288 people this season. Vail Resorts’ attorneys argued that part-time instructors should be included in the group. The part-time instructors add about 472 people to the pool of instructors.
Union representatives had obtained enough signatures from full-time instructors to prompt a hearing on the matter — at least 30 percent of the group. After the Monday decision, organizers would have had two business days to get a similar number of signatures from the part-time instructors.
“We had a 48-hour window — the logistics would have been impossible,” Communications Workers of America Administrative Director for Organizing Al Kogler said.
Staring at a requirement to get at least 142 signatures of part-time workers, the union withdrew its petition Thursday afternoon.
Kogler said organizers had believed the full-time employees made up an appropriate group for unionization, saying full-time employees have a different benefit package and depend on ski instruction as a primary source of income.
After an hours-long hearing March 3, the record of decision National Labor Relations Board Acting Regional Director Leticia Pena disagreed with that assertion. The decision reads, in part, that, “ … the full-time and part-time ski instructors are basically indistinguishable except for the number of hours they work.”
The news from the feds was welcomed by Vail Resorts officials. A statement from Beaver Creek Ski & Snowboard School Director Fred Rumford reads, in part, “We are one team of professional ski and snowboard instructors who all share a common passion and commitment — if nothing else — I hope this message has come through loud and clear. We recognize that no workplace is perfect, but working together and with continued dialogue and improvements, we will make Beaver Creek and our Ski & Snowboard School the best it can be.”
Kogler didn’t want to discuss possible future actions by the union. But, he added, “As long as there’s a core of workers striving for support in the workplace (the Communications Workers of America) will support them in any way they can.”
And there have been a handful of successful unionization efforts in the ski industry, including at Telluride and Park City. Kogler said the Communications Workers of America represents about 400 people in the ski industry right now, and has just filed for a unionization election in Stowe, Vermont.
Kogler said he sees opportunity in the ski resort industry, which he called a business that has matured, but still wants to “treat workers as temporary seasonal help.”