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Ski Instructors Seek to Form Union

A group of ski and snowboard instructors at Beaver Creek resort are looking to form a union, as early as this winter. If they are successful, the union would be the first of its kind in the United States. The instructors have asked the Communication Workers of American (CWA) in Denver to help them with the process.

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According to the Beaver Creek Instructors United website, the instructors’ mission is to have “a collective voice to improve our wages and working conditions and enhance the quality, value and safety of our guests’ experience.” Beyond higher pay, the instructors want to provide input on policies and initiatives occurring at Vail Resorts. And while they are seeking to gain the bargaining power a union can provide, they insist they have no intention of going on strike.

In an apparent effort to blunt the pay issue, Vail Resorts informed Beaver Creek and Vail instructors via email of new wages for the 2015-16 season. The new pay scale increases wages for non-certified instructors have by 55 cents an hour, to $10.50. Certified instructors will see greater increases, up to $18 an hour for Level 3 certification, an increase of $3.05 an hour.

CWA organizer Al Kogler said the needs of instructors deserve consideration. “They put their lives on hold for months to provide a great and safe guest experience … These are not just surfer dudes who disappear at the end of every ski season. Some of these instructors have been at this for 40 years.”

Before the instructors can officially organize a union, they must petition to have an election. For that, they’ll need to collect signatures from 30 percent or more of the resort’s instructors. If they do, and if the majority of instructors vote in favor of having a union, then one will be formed by the CWA.

Currently, the CWA represents ski patrollers at Colorado’s Steamboat Springs, Crested Butte and Telluride resorts, and Canyons (now part of Vail Resorts-owned Park City) in Utah. Other patrols may join; ski patrollers at Taos, N.M., are holding a union vote in November.

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