Heavenly union vote will occur this year
After a season of preparation, and a summer of waiting, employees at Heavenly Ski Resort finally will get to vote on union representation this winter.
Employees of Heavenly’s ski patrol and lift maintenance departments approached Teamsters Union Local 533 in December 1998. In March, the union and resort met before a field agent of the National Labor Relations Board to decide which employees were actually eligible to vote for a union.
The NLRB found the resort’s ski patrol department shared a “distinct and separate community of interest,” therefore making them an appropriate bargaining unit. The NLRB denied the lift maintenance department, stating lift employees didn’t have a separate interest from the other departments on the mountain.
The union requested a vote be held in May, but the NLRB found the election should be held at or near the next seasonal peak to allow the largest number of eligible employees the chance to vote. The union needs 50 percent of those who vote, plus one, to pass.
Bruce Friend, assistant regional director of the NLRB, said he expects the election will occur in mid-December or early January. Friend estimated that around 65 employees would be eligible voters.
Lou Martino, chief executive officer of Local 533, said he thinks the delay only hurt the employees
“It is usually not delayed this long,” Martino observed. “If the vote had gone ahead there is a good possibility that we would have already negotiated a contract. Once they vote for the union we will have to meet with the employees to find out what they want in their contract, which will take time. And beyond that it will probably take around 30 days to get it into contract form. It is conceivable that we might not even get into negotiations before the employees start getting laid off again.”
Despite the delay, which will also equal an altered work force in December, Martino is confident about winning the election.
“I think we will prevail there. We feel pretty confident that we can help and I think (the employees) recognize that,” he said. “In November and December we’ll be looking to reschedule meetings with employees, to re-educate them on the election process, and talk to new employees who might not know what is going on.”
John Feldman, an attorney for Heavenly, said Heavenly agreed with the board’s decision to delay the vote.
“Heavenly doesn’t want to disenfranchise anyone,” he said. “Heavenly’s only objective is to allow the most possible employees in the ski patrol department to have an opportunity to cast their ballots.”
Friend said the NLRB requires employers to post notice of an election at least 72 hours before, but added that both sides usually know long before that when the election will be. Last year employees said the reason they sought union representation was because they wanted a voice in the hours and conditions of their work.
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