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Crested Butte lift crew moves to unionize, following Park City’s lead

 Park City Mountain lift mechanics and electricians have formed the county's first union of their kind.
Park City Lift Maintenance Professional Union
The move makes them just the second lift operations team in the country to unionize, following the creation of the Park City Lift Maintenance Professional Union last year.

Lift mechanics and electricians at Park City Mountain made history last year as the first ski resort maintenance crew to unionize in the U.S. Now workers at Crested Butte Ski Resort in Colorado are following their lead.

On Thursday 100% of the lift maintenance crew at Crested Butte submitted a letter to resort management and parent company Vail Resorts requesting voluntary recognition of its union.

Voluntary recognition means the group can sidestep the four to six week delay that a National Labor Relations Board election would cause. It allows them to begin the process of bargaining for a first contract that addresses compensation, workplace conditions, and safety concerns.

The union has filed a petition with the NLRB, but is prepared to withdraw it upon receiving voluntary recognition from Broomfield-based Vail by May 30.

“Not many people understand what it really takes to maintain these machines,” said second-year lift mechanic Thomas Pearman. “We want our mountain to prosper, but when all the decisions are being made in Broomfield boardrooms, we are left out."

The move makes them just the second lift operations team in the country to unionize, following the creation of the Park City Lift Maintenance Professional Union last year.

Like Park City, the Crested Butte union will be organized under the United Professional Ski Patrols of America, which is a branch of the Communication Workers of America.

Isabel Aries is a local organizer with the CWA.

“The 100% is kind of rare, to have all of them sign on,” Aries said. “I think that was just another reason that they decided that they really wanted to do voluntary recognition, because all of them were united. So it wasn’t like there was anybody who still had to make up their mind among the crew. But you don’t really have to be at 100% to have voluntary recognition be an option.”

Crested Butte General Manager Tara Schoedinger said in a statement that the resort is "committed to the constant improvement of our employee experience, which includes significant investment in employee wages, employee benefits, and affordable housing for the '22/'23 season, among other steps."

"My number one priority is working together as one team to ensure a positive employee experience, which includes sharing and addressing concerns together," Schoedinger said. "I believe a direct relationship with our team works best rather than through a third party, and at the same time, am dedicated to working closely with our team whichever decision they make.”

Liesl Jenkins is one of the members of the Park City maintenance crew who led the historic unionization effort. She helped consult workers at Crested Butte on how to manage the unionization process, and said the 100% support is impressive.

“I think that’s absolutely phenomenal, I could not be happier,” Jenkins said. “It just shows this is really tracking and trending in the industry, and people are on board – they want change. And this is the way that they think that they can do it.”

She said workers at other resorts in the early stages of the unionization process have also reached out for help.

Jenkins said she plans to attend law school at the University of Utah in the fall, and is leaning towards studying labor law.

Corrected: May 26, 2023 at 7:46 AM MDT
A previous version of this article misspelled Crested Butte General Manager Tara Schoedinger's surname.