Heavenly workers reject unionization | TahoeDailyTribune.com
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Heavenly workers reject unionization

The Heavenly Ski Resort ski patrol voted overwhelmingly not to join the Teamsters Union Thursday night.

The 37-17 vote was viewed as a victory for Heavenly Ski Resort, which gave the ski patrol its biggest raise ever at the start of the ski season.

“Quite frankly it’s a tremendous vote of confidence in the resort and in Mark McAllister, the director of the ski patrol,” Heavenly’s attorney, John Feldman, said.



“Nobody likes to lose but we did the best we could,” said Lou Martino, chief executive officer of Teamsters Union Local 533, which – with the exception of government employees – can represent people in any industry. “We view it as a vote against themselves, not against the union. We can still go out and represent other people well.”

In December 1998 the Teamsters were contacted by Heavenly electricians, lift operators and ski patrol members 80 percent of whom signed blue cards indicating their interest in joining a union.




The National Labor Relations Board decided in April 1999 that only the ski patrol shared “a distinct and separate community of interest,” and were therefore eligible to vote on union representation. That decision curbed the efforts of other resort employees to unionize.

Typically a vote is held within 30 days of an NLRB decision but the vote was delayed due to the seasonal nature of the ski industry. That delay and the addition of 17 new members of the ski patrol hurt the union vote, Martino said.

“The momentum was gone, the motivation was gone and the influx of new people didn’t help either,” Martino said. “They probably think its a great place to work because they get to ski all the time.”

The large raise may have also influenced the vote, said Martino who believes the wage increase was a response to the employees effort to organize.

“In a round about way the union has helped these people without actually representing them,” Martino said. “Everything is still in management’s hands, if they want to give they can and if they want to take away the can do that too.”

A contract negotiated by the union would have guaranteed future raises.

Before the vote a Heavenly ski patroller, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said there was a feeling of ambivalence about the union among the ski patrol.

“I certainly don’t agree with bringing the Teamsters in. I don’t think they have our best interest at heart. But I do agree with raising the standard of living,” he said.

“In this instance the employees indicated overwhelmingly that they did not want to be represented by Local 533,” Feldman said. “This is over now and there is not much more to say, except that Heavenly is very pleased and we want to move forward.”

If the vote had passed the Heavenly ski patrol would have been the first such group to join a union.

Ski patrol members at other resorts may still unionize according to Martino, who said, “I really would like to represent people in the ski industry.”

One member of the Kirkwood ski patrol, who declined to give his name, thought a forming a union would help hold management more accountable for their actions, as well as improve workers’ safety and compensation.

“I think it would be a great idea,” he said. “Most people out here would support (joining a union).”


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