Ski patrollers in two states join CWA

It wasn’t a snow job but straight talk that convinced hundreds of ski patrollers in Colorado and Utah to join CWA. Right now they number about 250 and expect to reach 400 shortly. They have the potential to grow by hundreds more.

Ski patrollers at Steamboat Springs, Breckenridge, Keystone, Aspen and Crested Butte, Colo., had been represented by the American Maritime Officers Union District 2-A until it disbanded last summer. The AMA, which represented 400 ski patrollers nationwide, suggested they sign up with the United Auto Workers, but the ski patrollers decided to shop around.

Their Crested Butte bargaining unit had once gotten legal advice from CWA Attorney Susan Tyburski, who works at CWA’s District 7 office in Denver. Impressed by her, the Crested Butte unit steered the larger group’s 12-member executive board toward CWA.

“They wanted a union that had local presence within Colorado. They liked our strategies, and they saw a lot of advantages in our legislative focus,” said District 7 Organizing Coordinator Kevin Mulligan. After several meetings with Mulligan, the board voted to affiliate. They made the announcement at the Colorado All-State Ski Patrol convention on April 1 that the United Professional Ski Patrols of America will become CWA Local 7781.

“We are excited,” said President pro-tem Al Rosenthal. “We’re looking forward to a partnership that is going to help the ski patrollers grow and develop a political base.” “We consider ski patrolling to be a profession, even though it’s a seasonal business,” Rosenthal said. “We’re feeling the economic squeeze on the (ski resort) industry and in our ability to perform professionally. We are affiliating with CWA to enhance our ability to meet our charge and to expand our organization nationwide.” He said that because the ski industry is one of the largest in the state, bills that affect the industry often come up in the legislature. Employment law in Colorado strongly favors employers, particularly in the area of workers’ compensation. “We expect that with CWA we will have a stronger voice when these laws come up,” Rosenthal said.

The board currently represents all of the units above except Aspen. About 150 ski patrollers at Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk Mountain and Snowmass resorts all bargain with the same employer and Rosenthal expects that board will vote to affiliate shortly.

The new local has also filed for a National Labor Relations Board election for 61 ski patrollers at the Snowbird resort. “If they come with us, they would be our second unit in Utah,” Rosenthal said.

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