Group, union, rally for higher wages at Whiteface Mountain

WILMINGTON - A small group of unionized workers employed at the state Olympic Regional Development Authority gathered at the entrance to Whiteface Mountain last week to rally support for contract negotiations.

Union officials say ORDA needs to grant raises for its blue collar workers, who are responsible for the day-to-day operations at the Olympic venues in and around Lake Placid.

Last Friday's rally was scheduled to coincide with Whiteface Mountain's opening day.

Kathy Garrison is regional president for the Civil Service Employees Association. She says ORDA's board of trustees has been unwilling to negotiate any kind of contract package for its unionized workers.

"Our people make very little money here," Garrison said. "Many of them earn just slightly more than minimum wage. Many of them are eligibly for public assistance, and many of them work two or three jobs. It's a bunch of millionaires who sit on the board and they won't even come back and bring 50 cents to them. They have the ability to do that and we think it's time they be fair to the people who do the work here. They're bragging about how much money they're bringing into the area and how much money they're making, well it's time to give these workers their fair share."

Garrison noted that ORDA workers do get health insurance through their jobs, but with many employees earning less than nine dollars an hour, the union is looking for wage increases.

She noted lift operators and ski patrol make just over eight dollars an hour on average, while some of the more skilled workers - like mechanics - as well as long-term employees make slightly more.

But Garrison said they still deserve more.

"There's people that work here that can't afford to go home because they can't live in the area, and they don't make enough money to pay for the gas to go home," she said. "Some of these people sleep in their cars after work because they can't afford to go home."

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