Ski patrollers and paramedics at Loveland Ski Area vote to unionize, citing lack of livable wage and benefits
The vote to unionize sets the stage for Loveland ski patrollers and paramedics to form a collective bargaining unit in an effort to negotiate better pay and benefits with the ski area's management
Ski patrollers and paramedics at Loveland Ski Area have voted to unionize with the United Professional Ski Patrols of America, a union representing about 700 ski patrollers across the West.
Ski patrollers at Loveland unionized to address common workplace issues, including insufficient benefits for their job requirements and pay incommensurate with their hazardous work, according to a news release from United Professional Ski Patrols.
“The message is positive. We like our jobs,” Loveland ski patroller and EMT Allison Perry said. “We get to do the thing most of us love the most: skiing and snowboarding. But we take on a tremendous amount of risk. We get injured. We handle explosives. We rescue people. We want to be recognized as the skill professionals we are and make the job we love a viable career path.”
Loveland ski patrollers reached out to United Professional Ski Patrols, CWA Local 7781, about six months ago, according to Isabel Aries, a local coordinator with the union. The union also represents patrollers and EMTs at eight other ski areas, including Breckenridge Ski Resort, Steamboat Resort, Purgatory Resort and Telluride Ski Resort.
In February, 70% of patrollers and paramedics at Loveland signed onto a petition for union representation, setting up a mail-ballot election that concluded Friday, Aries said.
Of 39 ballots cast, 22 voted in favor of joining the union and 17 voted against.
“These patrollers knew what the best choice for them was,” Aries said. “Now they really have this chance to figure out exactly how they want to use this power.”
Loveland Ski Area said in a statement that it maintains that “engaged collaboration through direct and open communication” has led it to have some of the best working conditions in the industry.
“While this was not our desired outcome, we respect the decision and remain committed to our employees,” the statement shared by Loveland Ski Area spokesperson John Sellers said. “We will continue to comply with all applicable labor and employment laws, will bargain in good faith with union representation and will continue to support our employees.”
Perry, who has worked as a ski patroller for seven years and joined Loveland in 2019, said ski patrollers don’t get paid a liveable wage reflective of the high cost of living of the region where they work. Many ski patrollers at Loveland commute between 50 and 100 miles to work everyday, she said.
“We get paid in fun and powder,” Perry said. “But I can’t pay my rent in fun, and if I need some help with mental health, I can’t pay for that with powder.”
Ski patrollers and EMTs at Loveland also don’t receive health insurance, Perry said, noting that the physical nature of the job can take a toll on employees’ bodies, while responding to crashes and medical emergencies can take a toll on mental health.
Noting that ski patrollers provide “a very essential service to the company and community,” Perry said she believes forming a union will help balance the power between upper management and ski patrollers.
“Historically, the company always has all the power,” Perry said. “We believe we deserve some of the power because we’re the ones in the trenches everyday.”
Lacking benefits and pay has led to high turnover of ski patrollers at Loveland, she added, noting that better compensation could help the ski area retain employees year after year, leading to a more experienced and professional team of patrollers.
“It’s time to recognize that retaining experienced people really benefits the public, really benefits the company, and really benefits us,” Perry said.
With the election over, Loveland ski patrollers who opt to join the union will elect a bargaining committee in the coming weeks and prepare for bargaining sessions with the ski area’s management, according to Aries. Then, when the committee comes to a collective bargaining agreement with management, the union will be officially formed and operate under a contract.
While Perry said there is not yet a projected timeline for when negotiations may begin, she added, “We hope the negotiations go smoothly, of course. But given the effort of the company to fight us, we’re kind of hoping for the best, preparing for the worst.”
She said she still has faith in Loveland to accept the result of the elections and bargain constructively and in good faith.
“They’ve done fairly well by us. We love working at Loveland, otherwise we’d just quit,” Perry said. “But they can do better, and we want to help them do better.”
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