Opinion » Editorial


Opening remarks Questions for the union, the resort Just about everyone who lives in Whistler does so because they want to be here. Despite the problems with housing and the high cost of living in a resort, most people are here for the lifestyle, which offers unique benefits, rewards and opportunities not found elsewhere. This week, for the third time in less than five years, the United Steelworkers saw an opportunity and came to town to organize lift company employees. Their pitch is that they can negotiate a better deal for workers. This is not the first time someone or some group has come to town and tried to sell people on how they can make Whistler better — developers and entrepreneurs have been doing it for years. Many have been sent packing because their proposals haven’t fit in with the course Whistler has charted. Whistler is not Oshawa or Port Alberni. It’s not better or worse, it’s different — particularly the structure and stability of the local economy. Whistler is not Kimberley or Rossland, either. As fine as those ski areas may be, they are not year-round resorts and are still trying to find their way in a tourism-based economy. The question the Steelworkers are asking employees through leaflets left in mailboxes is whether they want the union to represent them. The question that should be asked of the Steelworkers is ‘do you understand the resort and how it works?’ It should be asked because labour relations on the two mountains are critical to the resort as a whole. But it’s a question that won’t be answered or debated in public, as was done with the Official Community Plan and the freestyle training centre proposal. Under the current labour laws if 55 per cent of lift company employees sign a card the union is in. The employees, who apparently invited the union, certainly have the right to decide who will represent them, but they also need to open up a discussion on what the union could bring to the community. Would the Steelworkers help build more employee housing, for example? If the Steelworkers are really concerned about the tourism industry they will make their pitch not just to the employees they hope to represent, but to the community at large. – Bob Barnett