National labor board investigates charges against Aspen Skiing Co. | PostIndependent.com

National labor board investigates charges against Aspen Skiing Co.

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
A ski instructor works down Fanny Hill with her young students Tuesday at Snowmass. The least-experienced instructors now make at least $18 per hour after 'significant' raises for ski pros this season.
Jeremy Wallace/The Aspen Times |

Two groups of charges filed by a ski instructor alleging unfair labor practices by Aspen Skiing Co. were consolidated Jan. 29 as part of an investigation by the National Labor Relations Board.

The labor board is tight-lipped about open cases but supplied heavily redacted copies of the charges when The Aspen Times filed a request through the Freedom of Information Act.

In a charge filed Sept. 3, the ski instructor claimed to be by-passed on a priority list for lessons for “engaging in protected, concerted activity.” The instructor also claimed that a request to transfer to a different ski area within the Skico umbrella was ignored “in retaliation for engaging in protected, concerted activity.”

The instructor’s identity was redacted from the documents. A person with knowledge of the case said the instructor is a woman. The instructor further alleged she was given a negative performance evaluation in retaliation for her activities.

She also claimed Skico interfered in the exercise of rights guaranteed by the National Labor Act by maintaining an Employee Resource Guide that contains “unlawfully overbroad policies regarding confidential information, employees conduct on and off duty, internet and email usage, social networking and blogging, solicitation and distribution.”

It is labor board policy to keep the response by the party being investigated confidential. Aspen Skiing Co. declined to provide its response to the charges or discuss the case.

“We do not comment on ongoing allegations, charges or other particular employee situations,” the company said in a statement.

‘Chill’ effect alleged

A labor board official confirmed that a separate group of charges was filed July 2 by the same ski instructor alleging different violations of unfair labor practices. In that charge, the instructor said the ski school disciplined her for “unprofessional” conduct. She claimed it was “a pretext for me raising group complaints related to wages and working conditions.”

The instructor claimed the disciplinary notice contains unlawful restrictions that “chill” employees from exercising the right to self-organize, form or join labor organizations under the National Labor Act.

The labor board could dismiss the charges or determine that formal action must be pursued, possibly in the form of a complaint. No timetable has been set for a decision in the Skico case.

The National Labor Relations Board negotiated a settlement when ski instructor James Cohen made charges in 2011. The board made a ruling after investigating ski instructor Lee Mulcahy’s charges in 2010. Both instructors alleged that Skico was interfering with their rights to talk to colleagues about conditions. Mulcahy was a member of an elite group of ski pros when he launched a campaign to get higher pay for instructors, especially those on the lower levels of the ski school.

Skico instructors get ‘significant raise’

Skico raised pay for instructors by “roughly 7 percent” this season, though the exact percentage varied for instructors with different levels of experience. The newer pros got the biggest increase, said spokesman Jeff Hanle.

Skico’s 2015-16 Pro Pay Grid reflects pay for instructors on six levels of experience, from Apprentice 1 to Stage IV. Within each of those six categories, instructors are further broken down by hours of experience. All told, there are 37 pay grades plus six rates for training.

The least experienced Apprentice 1 instructors saw a raise in pay to $18 per hour this year for a group lesson and assigned private lesson. Those instructors received $13 per hour previously.

An instructor in Stage III with 450 hours of experience gets $65.50 per hour for a private lesson request, according to the pay grid.

“Our ski school pay scale is the best in the ski industry and our pros received a significant increase again this year,” Skico said in a statement. “Employee engagement surveys show our employees consistently have a very high level of employee satisfaction, with satisfaction levels at the top of the industry, and among the highest in the nation according to Outside Magazine survey data.”

Vail Resorts raised the starting pay for its non-certified instructors to $10.50 per hour from $9.95 this season, a 5.5 percent increase. Level 3 certified instructors saw their pay increase from $14.95 per hour to $18, an increase of 20.4 percent, according to information supplied by the company.

Ski instructors at Beaver Creek, one of the ski areas owned and operated by Vail Resorts, considered collecting signatures in October to hold a vote on joining a union, according to the Vail Daily. However, no vote has taken place yet and none is scheduled.

There hasn’t been a ski instructor vote to join a union at any of the four Aspen Skiing Co. ski areas.

scondon@aspentimes.com


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