Union vote sweeps in Telluride, ties in Taos | VailDaily.com

Union vote sweeps in Telluride, ties in Taos

EAGLE COUNTY — The union that's trying to organize Beaver Creek ski instructors scored a resounding victory in Telluride.

Telluride's ski patrol voted 50-1 last week to ratify their first union contract with the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations' Communication Workers of America.

Tie vote in Taos

Taos Ski Valley's ski patrol voted Wednesday whether to unionize.

That vote is said to be deadlocked, say several Taos residents contacted by phone Saturday.

They said the Taos vote ended in a 22-22 tie.

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Taos Ski Valley management sweetened the pot in the face of the union vote, including a pay raise and an allowance for ski gear for patrollers.

Union organizers and ski patrol organizers did not return repeated calls for comment.

Pay raise in Vail

Last month, Vail Resorts did a version of the same thing, raising ski instructors' starting pay by 55 cents an hour pay to $10.50 an hour for non-certified instructors. Level 3 certified instructors will get a $4.05 pay increase, to $18 an hour, according to an email circulated last month by Vail Resorts.

Union dues are 1.29 percent of your base wage, about $6.50 a week for Beaver Creek ski instructors, said Al Kogler, the Communications Workers of America's union organizer in this region of the country.

How a union vote would work

It would take a minimum of 30 percent of ski instructors working Beaver Creek to request a union vote, but Kogler said the AFL-CIO likes to have 50 percent of the workers signed on before asking the National Labor Relations Board for a vote.

Once the AFL-CIO asks the National Labor Relations Board to authorize a union vote. The NLRB then asks Vail Resorts for an employee list. The federal agency compares names, like election officials would for any campaign.

The National Labor Relations Board lets everyone know who gets to vote, where and when.

An election could be called in as little as four weeks after the labor relations board ratifies the signatures.

Growing union influence

If Beaver Creek ski instructors vote to unionize, then they'd join union ski patrols in four resorts: Steamboat Springs, Crested Butte, Canyons in Park City, Utah, and now Telluride.

Telluride's three-year union contract includes wage security and increases, better benefits, a grievance policy and more in-job security, according to the Telluride Daily Planet newspaper.

Telluride's Tony Daranyi, a 16-year ski patroller and member of the bargaining committee, called it a "win-win for the ski patrol, management and the Telluride community."

Strike not likely

Strikes are not part of their union's model, Kogler said, and cannot happen until a contract expires. Contracts run two or three years.

On their website, Beaver Creek Instructors United have said they won't strike, because there are other ways to accomplish things.

For now the union is working only with Beaver Creek ski instructors. Vail ski instructors have a Facebook page, Fair Wages for Ski Instructors.

Retribution is illegal

Under federal law, a company cannot take any negative action against you if you support of a union, or don't.

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

If a majority of Beaver Creek ski instructors vote to make the CWA their union, then 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.

Colorado is the only state that requires non-union workers to pay that fee in a union shop.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.