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Park City ski patrol union authorizes strike

Patrollers hold signs with messages reading "Experience = Safety," "Fighting for living wages" and "Fun doesn't pay," among other messages.
Ben Lasseter
98% of ski patrol union members voted this weekend to authorize a strike. The union business manager said a strike is not imminent, but the move could pressure Vail Resorts to accept the union's contract demands.

The Park City ski patrol union has voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike ahead of the 50th scheduled bargaining session between the union and Vail Resorts.

The Park City Professional Ski Patrol Association was scheduled to meet with Park City Mountain Resort owner Vail Resorts Monday night, the 50th such bargaining session in a string of negotiations dating back to last summer.

But this time, union negotiators have a different card to play: According to union business manager Patrick Murphy, the patrol union over the weekend voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike, with 98% of members supporting the measure.

Murphy said he hopes the vote puts pressure on Vail Resorts to meet the union’s demands of a higher starting wage and better benefits.

“I think we're trying to send the message that we're not satisfied with what we've been receiving at bargaining so far,” Murphy said. “We feel that we deserve more and we still feel like we deserve a fair and appropriate and reasonable wage. And our patrollers have stood up and voiced their opinion that they're not happy with the direction negotiations have been going, and that they're willing to continue fighting for what they deserve.”

Vail Resorts in a prepared statement said it continues to have "productive conversations" with the union.

Murphy said the vote does not mean a strike is imminent, nor is a strike guaranteed to happen. The best case scenario, the union said on social media, is to walk away with a new contract in hand. The post also acknowledges a strike could affect other PCMR employees and the Park City community.

Patrollers continue to receive paychecks and benefits like health insurance while working without a contract. Typically, wage increases are applied retroactively. Without a contract, though, work stoppages like a strike or lockout are possible.

Murphy said compensation issues, including the starting wage and wage compression, remained at the center of negotiations. The union recently rejected a $15 per hour starting wage and is asking instead for $17 per hour for starting patrollers.

PCMR COO Mike Goar said in mid-December the $15 initial wage is the right offer. He touted the other compensation elements in Vail’s contract offers and said similar contracts were accepted “with enthusiasm” at other resorts.

Murphy said the 48 first-year PCMR patrollers are all earning less than the $15 minimum wage the resort pays the rest of its employees.

“So right now, all of our first-year patrollers on the mountain are making $13.25 an hour, which is well below that company minimum wage that has been implemented for all other employees,” he said.

A so-called “solidarity fund” for the union has raised more than $77,000 as of Monday afternoon. It is described as a safety net in the event the union takes significant action and patrollers stop receiving paychecks.

Alexander joined KPCW in 2021 after two years reporting on Summit County for The Park Record. While there, he won many awards for covering issues ranging from school curriculum to East Side legacy agriculture operations to land-use disputes. He arrived in Utah by way of Madison, Wisconsin, and western Massachusetts, with stints living in other areas across the country and world. When not attending a public meeting or trying to figure out what a PID is, Alexander enjoys skiing, reading and watching the Celtics.