FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
QUESTION: Can I be disciplined, discriminated against, or fired for being involved with a union?
ANSWER: The National Labor Relations Act is a Federal law that protects private sector employee’s right to: attend meetings to discuss joining a union; wear union buttons, t-shirts, stickers, and hats; sign cards, petitions, and file grievances; read distribute and discuss union literature and ask other employees to support the union (when done in non-work areas on non-work times such as breaks). Your employer cannot legally punish or discriminate against any worker because of union activity.
QUESTION: Who determines what happens in the union?
ANSWER: We instructors would. We are the union. We members democratically vote on nearly every aspect of union activity including our leadership, where and how money is spent, and whether to accept or reject a contract.
Why do employers fight unionization?
ANSWER: Regardless of what management says publicly, most employers fight worker’s attempts to gain a voice at work because forming a union empowers workers. It is really as simple as that. In a non-union workplace, the employer has nearly unlimited power to do whatever they want, whenever they want, to whomever they want. With union representation, management must share power through negotiations over wages and working conditions, and workers are able to hold them to their word through the grievance and arbitration process. For example, VR would not have been able to implement the “report cards”, fit-to ride, give away our parking during the championships, or require the binding checks without negotiating the requirement and implementation with us had we had a union at that time.
QUESTION: Can you get in trouble by attending an organizing meeting or signing a card?
ANSWER: It is illegal for an employer to take any adverse action against an employee attending a union meeting or signing a card: this is a legally protected activity. Talking about a union or organizing a union is a protected activity by National Labor Relations Act. Vail Resorts is prohibited by law from retaliating against employees who talk about or support a union.
QUESTION: When and where can we talk about the union or recruit for the union?
ANSWER: You are allowed to talk about the union just about any place except when you are on the clock, or in a work area during work hours. Note: this is pretty narrow. For example, if you were having coffee before classes or private lessons start, but still in uniform you could talk about the union. Same thing applies to the locker room, if it is before you are on the clock. If it you are on bell, waiting for an assignment, then you are on the clock, and cannot talk about the union.
QUESTION: Can I lose my job by joining?
ANSWER: It is against the law for Vail Resorts to retaliate against instructors who want to join a union. There is a team of lawyers ready to take action should VR try this illegal measure.
QUESTION: How will it work if some of us are in a union, and others are not?
ANSWER: The union will represent all of the employees in the bargaining unit. Vail Resorts is not permitted to favor those employees who are union members vs those are not. There are mechanisms to quickly determine whether that happens and to stop that action if it occurs.
QUESTION: Can Vail shut out instructors who join the union?
ANSWER: That would be illegal and is prohibited by the National Labor Relations Act.. Any attempt to do this would be responded to with legal action.
QUESTION: What happens if we strike? Can non-union instructors take our jobs?
ANSWER: There will be no strikes. That is not how this union will work. The goal of the union will be to work with VR to not only improve the compensation of instructors and their work conditions, but also work with VR to make BC the world’s best resort. There are plenty of tools available to persuade VR to work with InstructorsUnited without having to threaten strikes.
But just as background information, 97% of all contracts are settled without a strike. Strikes are used only as a last resort, and would require a majority of the instructorsUnited instructors vote to approve one. In the unlikely event of a strike, the CWA Defense Fund and Member’s Relief Fund has a current balance of over $400 million dollars and is available to financially assist striking members.
Question: Can We Be Replaced By Vail Instructors?
ANSWER: That also would be illegal . Having a union does not give VR the basis to change which instructors teach at Beaver Creek. Trying to give Vail instructors work performed by Beaver Creek instructors would be considered retaliation. The law and CWA attorneys will make sure that Vail Resorts doesn’t try to circumvent the legal process.
QUESTION: Will the Full Timers be threatened?
ANSWER: Vail Resorts is likely to say anything to try to avoid getting a union. However, again, the law prevents that. The first thing that will happen when a petition is filed all the policies that BC followed in the past are frozen in place so they cannot change current full time instructors.
QUESTION: Who is the CWA and why would we even want to be part of them?
ANSWER: Because they are a good fit for us, and they give us tremendous clout and access to resources. The Communications Workers of America is an umbrella organization for a wide range of local unions. It covers more than 700,000 employees and covers such sectors as flight attendants, telecommunications, press, health, public safety, and ski patrol workers. (http://www.cwa-union.org/about)
CWA is a good fit for us because it covers such a breadth of industries, and many of their workers have similarities to us. For example, flight attendants get their assignments and are off on their own jobs once assigned, taking care of their own aircraft, scheduling their own schedules, etc. The diversity is good because it makes CWA more of a laissez-faire umbrella organization which lets its locals operate the way that works best for them, as opposed to the autoworkers umbrella union which has specific ideas of making all their organizations similar.
We need an umbrella organization because of our size. CWA provides legal advice, lawyers, and an entire structure that can back us up in our dealings with Vail Resorts. They will provide professional negotiators to help us negotiate our contract. They have connections to news organizations, reporters, and video media to help us. They have the political contacts that can provide other substantial help to our organization. In other words, CWA helps to give us the clout of an organization many, many times our size.
QUESTION: Is the union going to try to make us all equal?
ANSWER: No, the union isn’t going to try to make any one different than the way we are now. Some of us have more or fewer certifications than others. Some of us prefer privates to group lessons, and others prefer the opposite. Some of us earn more because we get more requests. The union does not change any of that, nor would it want to.
Each union is different based on its members. We instructors make up our union, elect our leaders, and decide what is important to us.
Question: Can we lose benefits that we already have?
After we elect Instructors United as our bargaining representative, all of our wages and working conditions will remain the same until we agree to change them through negotiation. More than half a million CWA members, of which we will become a part, and 15.7 million union members all over the U.S. get better benefits, not worse. We will decide by democratic vote what to ask for in our contract, and whether to accept what is offered to us. Are we going to vote to accept less? Of course the answer is no.
QUESTION: I have a separate contract with Beaver Creek Ski School because of my special skills. Will I lose this contract when the union gets approved and a new contract is in place?
ANSWER: No, you will not lose your contract and the union would not try to alter it. The union’s policy is to “not regress, nor do any harm”. Our negotiations would be focused on improving what instructors have, not taking away from gains we have already made. As instructors, we all know that there are reasons for pay to vary from instructor to instructor. There are differences in skills, certifications, accreditations, and client base.
QUESTION: Will I have to pool tips with a union?
ANSWER: No. The union has nothing to do with that. The purpose of the union is to improve our lives, not negatively affect it. The union changes nothing except to give us collective bargaining rights, a voice and say in our work conditions, and a means to stop poor management practices.
QUESTION: Can I still make referrals?
ANSWER: Absolutely. The union would not propose any changes to this process which is so important to how we get work.
QUESTION: Will CWA be pushing their agenda? Will CWA tell us how to run things?
ANSWER: The good thing about CWA is that it let’s its locals run their operations in a why that works for that industry. CWA has locals that vary from flight attendants to communications workers to ski patrol. Accordingly, CWA doesn’t try to impose much on its locals.
QUESTION: How does the union deal with enforcing seniority, ie is it automatic or do we have to bargain on how they distribute work?
ANSWER: No. See above. As an example, in some industries the workers want seniority to rule. However, CWA recognizes that certifications, accreditations, and specialized skills determine how work should be assigned. In our case, we probably also don’t want seniority to be the basis for assignments. For example, we don’t want a cert 1 who has been here ten years selected to instruct a level 7 twelve year old when a level 3 cert with kids accred who has been here only 5 years is available. CWA is fine with us using our system.
QUESTION: I don’t need a raise. Why would I want to be part of the unon?
ANSWER: There are a lot of us who don’t live solely on the income we receive as ski instructors. Some are retired; some made their fortunes in other careers or professions; some have inherited money; and some just have made great investments. Some just live so simply, they don’t need much income.
But for anyone wanting to buy a home, raise children, or have a comfortable life, the current pay levels don’t represent a genuine living wage. There hasn’t been a pay raise for at least 10 years. If you will recall, we even took a pay cut after the financial crash. So we paid a price when times were bad. Now that VR has raised rates for lessons by 50% over what they were 5 years ago, we have not gotten reciprocal treatment with respect to compensation.
So why support organizing a union for those of us who don’t need a raise? One way to look at it that we are all in the same boat. Right now, as an individual, you have no ability to stand up for yourself, or stand up to an unfair action, or a decision that negatively affects you personally.
A union gives instructors a collective voice in interactions with the company. Compensation is just one of many issues that the corporation would have to negotiate with instructors. While individuals have virtually no rights under law in the current setting, employees in unions have many legal rights. Quite simply, if Vail Resorts wants to make changes that affect you as an individual, with a union those changes have to be negotiated.
Are you happy with the $10 you receive for show-up pay? That’s negotiable. Did you like the way your parking was given away to World Championship volunteers? That was a negotiable item for a union. Do you like the way that you have to fill out “report cards” on your own time for free, or have to work with a system that is so crude and cumbersome? That is a negotiable item. Were you ready when they announced fit to ride, or equipment check? Those were negotiable items that could have been worked out in a way that would have had minimal impact on instructors. With a union, personal accommodations would have been built into fit to ride so that short individuals didn’t have to get an exemption, or people with physical impairments didn’t have to go to their doctors to get a signed document just so they could take a different test.
If you don’t need a pay raise, the reason to join is because a) you help your colleagues who do need a raise to be able to live in this valley; b) because we all, and you, benefit from the power of collective bargaining; and c) perhaps one day you will need the power of us all in a union to address an unfair issue that is affecting you.
QUESTION: The union says it will seek a living wage, or improve compensation. Can you give an idea what that would look like?
ANSWER: There is one simple model that we could look at to see what a living wage looks like. Beaver Creek has only two other competitors in ski areas that have the same clientele that we do: Aspen and Deer Valley.
Looking at Aspen’s pay scale, there is hardly anyone who would try to argue this isn’t a living wage. To see the room for negotiating a change in our pay, notice these facts.
For an all day private lesson, Aspen charges its guests $730 if they walk in, and only $680 if the guests books 7 days in advance. For the same 6.5 hour lesson, Beaver Creek charges 125% what Aspen charges: $915 for a walk-in, and $860 for advance bookings. Both resorts have the same wealthy clientele, but WOW does BC stick it to our guests!! And, don’t we know it from what our clients say to us!
On average, an Aspen instructor earns between 175% -250% more Beaver Creek counterpart. At 50 days (mid season), a full-time Aspen Cert 2 instructor with a request will almost twice what a Beaver Creek counterpart earns. An Aspen Cert 3 with a request will get paid about 175% what a BC instructor in the same situation would earn.
If you compare what share of the guest lesson that an Aspen instructor earns, the difference is even more striking. Aspen will give its Cert 2 instructor with a request about 44% of what it charges the guest. The Cert 3 will get almost half. A Beaver Creek Cert 2 will get about 20% of what Vail Resort charges our guests. Our Cert 3 will get 22%.