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SAM Magazine—Crested Butte, Colo., May 31, 2023—Lift mechanics and electricians at Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR) have signed union authorization cards initiating a process to unionize. crested butteResort management and leaders at ownership group Vail Resorts now have the option to voluntary recognize the union, a move that would bypass the need for the petitioners to vote in a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) union election. 

To petition the NLRB for a union election, 30 percent of the employees within a department need to sign and submit a union authorization card. One-hundred percent of the 10 employees in the CBMR lift maintenance department submitted their signatures. 

If no other actions are taken by CBMR and Vail Resorts leadership, the NLRB is expected to return the petition in four to six weeks. A secret ballot vote will then be held among the 10 employees that submitted signatures. To pass, the petition must receive more than 50 percent approval.

If CBMR and Vail Resorts voluntarily recognize the union, foregoing the election process, then bargaining can begin in good faith, said Ryan Dineen, a local organizer of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) 7781 District 7, which is supporting the CBMR lift maintenance team’s effort.

 This is the latest in several unionization efforts in the ski industry in recent years. Lift mechanics at Utah’s Park City Mountain Resort—also owned by Vail Resorts—joined the CWA 7781 in 2022.  

In addition, the United Professional Ski Patrols of America Local 7781 union, also part of the CWA, has grown in recent years to include the ski patrol departments at CBMR, as well as those at Big Sky, Mont., Breckenridge, Loveland, Purgatory, Steamboat, and Telluride, Colo., and Stevens Pass, Wash. Ski patrollers at Aspen, Colo., formed a private union in 1986, and a unionization effort among patrollers at Keystone, Colo., was voted down in 2021.

Of the CBMR lift maintenance department’s move to unionize, said Dineen, “Each unionization effort has its own unique challenges, but broadly speaking, the employees are seeking to have more say in their life at work, more protections, and more avenues for circumvention.” 

Union contracts generally include salary requirements as well as details on benefits, working hours, and working conditions, and have a grievance and arbitration process written into the contract, said Dineen. “Many employees want to know that there will be a proper review process, that there was just cause for a termination, for instance,” he added. 

“I believe in engaging with all employees with respect, accountability, and transparency, and I encourage all staff members to communicate directly with me and our leadership team,” said CBMR general manager Tara Schoedinger. “I believe a direct relationship with our team works best rather than through a third party, and at the same time, am dedicated to working closely with our team, whichever decision they make.”  

Being involved in a unionization effort does not jeopardize an employee’s future employment with Vail Resorts, added CBMR senior communications manager Sara Huey. 

“I am committed to the constant improvement of our employee experience, which includes significant investment in employee wages, employee benefits, and affordable housing for the 2023-24 season, among other steps,” said Schoedinger. “My leadership team and I are proud of our efforts so far, and I’m committed to continuing these efforts.”