Ski patrolers can vote for union
While some Heavenly employees are cheering others are heading back to the drawing board this week. In a decision released April 14, the National Labor Relations Board found the resort’s ski patrol department shared a “distinct and separate community of interest,” therefore making them an appropriate bargaining unit, and eligible to vote for union representation.
The NLRB denied the lift maintenance department, stating lift employees didn’t have a separate interest from the other departments on the mountain.
Frank Champlin, a lift electrician who worked hard to bring the union to Heavenly said he was disappointed but not defeated.
“We’ve definitely made some headway. We have at least established that ski patrol gets to vote,” he said. “We may appeal the NLRB’s decision or we may just wait six months and reapply. I’m willing to start over if that is what it’s going to take to make the industry change. It’s a struggle, but anything that is worth anything is.”
During the previous step of the union dance, a hearing before a NLRB field agent, Heavenly argued that the Teamsters Union Local 533 was trying to “cherry pick special groups” for union representation.
“We’re satisfied that the regional director recognized our statements,” said John Feldman, an attorney for Heavenly. “They recognized that most employees at Heavenly share a common enterprise, and that is preparing the mountain for guests.”
The NLRB said the evidence shows that the ski patrol department, unlike the other employees at the ski resort, have duties that are primarily directed toward maintaining the safety of skiers and administering to the injured. The board also found that the department’s nurse/medics worked as a team with the patrollers. The union originally only filed on behalf of the actual patrollers.
Randall Tobey, a ski patroller, said the NLRB’s decision to include other members of the ski patrol department will not weaken the vote.
“The idea that we can be a collective bargaining unit has struck home,” he said. “We were really stoked when we heard the decision. Now all we have to do is follow through with it.”
The follow-through will be getting eligible voters to the ballot box. Bruce Friend, NLRB assistant regional director, said a vote usually comes within 25 to 30 days after the decision is released, but because of the seasonal nature of the ski industry the actual means and time of voting hasn’t been decided.
“We’re in the process of trying to figure that out. We understand from both parties that layoffs have already started to occur. We have to decide the best way to get the largest number of eligible voters to cast their ballots.”
The union needs 50 percent of those who vote, plus one, to pass. The NLRB estimated the number of eligible voters at 65. Greg Peterman, Heavenly’s vice president of human resources, said the actual number had not been calculated yet and it was more likely to be between 55 to 60 employees.
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