The ongoing saga of Lee Mulcahy versus the Aspen Skiing Co. has become something of a comic story in the otherwise lofty sophistication of Aspen and its environs. As the standard that all other ski towns are measured against, Aspen’s methods and actions are scrutinized and emulated by impressionable resorts that will imitate their role model. Will these smaller resorts take notice and single out community members to sanction for actions the corporation doesn’t like?
I can’t imagine that smaller resorts would act with such petty retribution for disrespecting the will of the local corporation. In smaller, less company-minded towns, the backlash might be severe. I can, however, imagine that the little resorts would take note of SkiCo’s actions to remove trouble-making pro-union employees from the equation. The message is clear: Don’t try to unionize ski employees or you will never ski again.
Thuggish tactics used on one person to assure that pro-union employees are sent a message make big headlines in a small town. The SkiCo obviously doesn’t care that its methods keep the issue in the news long after it should have faded. The bad publicity is nothing when compared with paying employees a wage that people need to live on. It’s the bottom line that counts.
Mulcahy’s lawsuit against Mike Kaplan appears to have merit. The SkiCo chose to air Mulcahy’s personnel file in public in spite of the privacy implications. Mulcahy contends that he was exonerated on the two main counts cited by the SkiCo for his release from the company. In fact, these infractions had been addressed by management and settled months before they came up as an issue deemed worthy of firing Mulcahy. Releasing them to public scrutiny long after they had been resolved reeks of vindictiveness.
Even if the two counts were true and Mulcahy was guilty of using foul language in front of a ski school class and charging a guest’s credit card without permission, would those charges justify a lifetime ban from the local mountains? Denying an American citizen access to publicly owned lands is unconstitutional, not to mention the dictatorial connotations, considering skiing in the Roaring Fork Valley is controlled by a monopoly.
Then again, as Americans we usually caricature dictators as childish megalomaniacs. I keep picturing Kim Jung Il as a puppet in the South Park creator’s “Team America: World Police.” I wonder if the SkiCo ever thought its image would degenerate to a degenerate puppet movie.
The SkiCo has no qualms about the low-ball pay it offers or the high prices it charges. Wages for some front-line positions at the SkiCo have gone up about $.75 per hour since 1997 while the price of a one-day lift ticket has risen $50. The SkiCo’s practices are endemic in this country and one reason that America is in decline. The workers of America need a small amount of liquid income to spend on things besides necessities in order to keep businesses other than the grocery store in operation. Concentrating wealth at the top and short-changing labor assures failure of the economy.
As the valley’s largest employer, SkiCo sets the bar for what the rest of the valley will earn. Keeping wages low hurts every worker, no matter the industry. All of these SkiCo employees with no liquid income assure that small businesses have fewer customers. A higher wage emanating from upvalley trickles down the entire corridor. Despite arguments to the contrary, spreading the wealth to the basement of the economy is far better than concentrating it in the upper echelon.
Finally, the Aspen Art Museum might want to visit the Aspen history museum to learn a little about the town it is about to construct its monstrous museum in. Aspen has long been the home of practical jokers and political pundits with a penchant for flamboyant protest. A few “for sale” signs on your property are not a good reason to ban someone from it. If someone went over there and torched your trailer, then it might rise to a crime worth the expense of a camera system.
The SkiCo and the art museum should lift the bans against Mulcahy on their properties before his lawsuit winds its way through court. The reputation of a sophisticated community is made by taking the high road. I would think that both of these organizations would be impervious to a little criticism, or at least act like they are.
It is neither glamorous nor sophisticated of the SkiCo and the museum to be seen as picking on the little guys. Truthfully, the pettiness of the SkiCo and the Aspen Art Museum isn’t so much a “comic story” as it is a joke.
If word gets out, that might affect the bottom line.
Johnny can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org