Wage Slaves in Our National Parks

 This past January, twenty-seven year old Ryan Hiller died when a tree fell on his tent cabin during a storm at Yosemite National Park. Tent cabins are structures with concrete flooring and walls, canvas roofs, beds, a dresser, but no cooking or toilet facilities. They are meant for overnight visitors who don’t want to pitch tents or stay in an expensive Yosemite lodge. Ryan wasn’t camping, however. He was a seasonal employee of the Delaware North Corporation, which manages the concessions at Yosemite. Tent cabins were the company housing the corporation provided, and for which Ryan had to pay rent.

Millions of people visit our national parks every year. They stay in hotels, cabins, and campgrounds, eat in the restaurants, and go on various excursions. You might be one of these persons. Did you ever wonder about the workers who checked you into your room, served your meals, or drove your tour bus? How much did they get paid? What were their working conditions? Where did these men and women live?

The federal government contracts national park concessions to private corporations. Three prominent concessionaires are Xanterra, owned by billionaire Philip Anschutz; the Delaware North Corporation; and Aramark, the global food and services provider. Park concessionaires collectively now have gross annual revenues of more than one billion dollars!

These businesses build their profits on the backs of some 25,000 workers, most of them hired seasonally. They promote themselves as stewards of the parks, providing ideal jobs for college students, senior citizens, and people who might enjoy living in a beautiful environment. The reality is something different. Many employees are, in effect, migrant workers, who move from park to park during the year and who depend economically upon these jobs. There is nothing ideal about this employment. Hours fluctuate wildly. At the beginning of a season, there are usually too many workers and hours are insufficient; as the season wears on, people leave and hours are over-long. The work is extremely stressful. Tourists crowd the national parks on vacations, and they can be rude and demanding of the staff. A guest at Yellowstone actually threatened to kill a server when he thought she had not treated him properly. Supervisors often run roughshod over their underlings, demeaning them in front of coworkers and guests and making unreasonable demands such as that you can’t get a drink of water during your shift. Unlike most jobs, workers are in isolated areas and often have no transportation, so if they don’t like the conditions and quit (or are fired, as often happens), they must leave the park immediately, losing not just their jobs but their homes and food supply.

One particularly egregious employer practice is the aggressive recruitment of young people from foreign countries, sometimes under the false premise that they will learn national park management and earn enough money to travel in the United States. Instead, these guest workers find themselves cleaning hotel rooms or laboring in hot kitchens, with little time available to see the parks in which they work and no money for travel.

Park concession employees earn extraordinarily low wages, and these become still lower after various deductions are made. Both domestic and foreign workers must pay all their travel expenses. For those who depend on incomes from park jobs, these costs mount because they must vacate housing at the end of the season, find some place to stay for a month or two, and then return to serve the next season of tourists. For example, a cook might work at the Bryce National Park Lodge from April to November, be unemployed for a month or two, and then go to the Furnace Creek Inn in Death Valley National Park. Employees also must pay partial room and board, as well as a health insurance premium. If you get stuck with limited hours during a pay period, it is possible that your wages will be negative after deductions.

Undesirable eating and living arrangements compound low wages and poor working conditions. Poor quality and unhealthful food characterize the fare in the employee dining rooms. Guests receive much better food than workers; they get full-strength orange juice and fresh eggs, while employees get watered-down juice and liquid eggs. We worked during the spring and summer of 2001 at Yellowstone National Park for Xanterra (formerly Amfac). We were appalled when we ate our first meal and discovered that the servers slopped our food onto compartmented plastic trays, just like in prisons.

Living accommodations are deplorable. We lived in a ten by ten room in Teal Hall, an ancient wooden building that looked like a long storage shed. We were fortunate to arrive for our job training earlier than most of our fellow workers, so we were able to scavenge the unoccupied rooms for the best of the ratty furniture and room amenities in them. The tiny hot water heater in our room was good for one shower. We had meager laundry facilities, but at least they were free; in other parks, workers must pay to wash and dry their clothing.

But bad as Teal Hall was, and still is, it is not the worst employee housing we have seen. Hovels, shacks, tents (in Alaska), there doesn’t seem to be a lower limit to the quality of employee housing. Usually, unrelated adults must share spaces too small for either privacy or neatness. These quarters are what workers go back to after a long hard day of labor at less than minimum wage (once travel, room, and board costs are taken into account). Imagine working as a hotel desk clerk—the job I had—standing on your feet for eight hours, dealing all day long with frazzled and irate tourists, missing a meal, and then walking home to your tent. If it is payday, you might delay your misery by detouring after work to the employee pub. At Yellowstone, we were encouraged to give our wages back to Xanterra at the pub, which was one of the company’s most lucrative profit centers.

Recently, the National Park Service approved a plan to allow Xanterra to take some employee housing at the Old Faithful area of Yellowstone and convert it into cabins for guests. This housing will undergo major renovations to be suitable for the tourists:

* The interior of the cabin units will be rehabilitated: new floor coverings, wall coverings, electrical systems, bathroom fixtures, and gas heaters.

* A number of the cabins would be made accessible.

* Pathways to the cabin area will be made safer and more accessible. Many of the asphalt walkways within the cabin area are old and deteriorating with numerous rough spots, uneven surfaces, raveling edges, and missing pavement. These walkways would be replaced or repaired as part of this project.

Xanterra wasn’t concerned with these cabins when the workers lived in them. Who cares if they had safe and accessible pathways and livable interiors? They were only means of production and not paying customers. The corporation is going to build a dormitory for employees, but away from where the tourists stay. Small rooms for two or three people and cheap construction would be my guess.

Stephen T. Mather, the first Director of the National Park Service (1917-1930), said, “Scenery is a hollow enjoyment to the tourist who sets out in the morning after an indigestible breakfast and a fitful night’s sleep on an impossible bed.” These words provided the rationalization for the growing commercialization of the national parks he oversaw. Those who came to the parks then were relatively well-off, and the lodges and concessions were developed with them in mind. Poorly paid workers served them, from the black porters on the trains that delivered tourists to Glacier National Park to the Harvey Girls at the Grand Canyon.

Today, the average tourists are not among the economic elite, but they must have incomes high enough to shell out the considerable sums of money necessary for transportation, lodging, food, and concessions (the off-season rate for a standard king bed room at Yosemite’s Ahwanhee Hotel is a whopping $532.87). What has changed little since Mather’s day is that low-wage labor still does the work, usually after sleeping on “an impossible bed” and eating an “indigestible breakfast.” Rich corporations, poor workers. Sound familiar?

115 Responses

  1. Sheldon
    Sheldon June 1, 2012 at 9:25 pm | | Reply

    I work for the NPS at Mesa Verde NP, and from what I have seen and heard, you are absolutely spot on about the conditions of concessionaire workers, in this case Aramark. Its absolutely despicable that the NPS, the Federal govt. doesn’t enforce better wages and conditions for these workers. After all, all construction contractors that do work on park lands have to pay Davis-Bacon wages, so why not some standards for service workers?

    1. Michael D. Yates
      Michael D. Yates June 2, 2012 at 7:43 am | | Reply

      Sheldon,

      Thanks for the comment. I hope many people read my post, and that something gets done about this.

      Michael

    2. michelle
      michelle February 12, 2014 at 5:17 pm | | Reply

      I worked at YNP and am not surprised by this article. The worst part about my housing was hearing huge bolders falling. It was so loud, it sounded like thunder. We’d all run out of our tent cabins, look up at the rock wall and wait for impending death. Bolders fell on guest cabins and those shut down. They never cared if the employees were hurt. Also, the extreme drug use among the employees was pretty bad. We worked six days a week. When we finally got a day off it was used for doing laundry, getting groceries, etc. I never had the energy to go hiking.

      1. KeepOnKeepinOn
        KeepOnKeepinOn March 13, 2014 at 11:09 am | | Reply

        Come on… If you want to hike badly enough, you’ll just go do it no matter what. There are people who would literally kill to be in your situation and you make excuses.
        And if people are not happy about low wages, simply don’t take the job. You can get service sector experience anywhere these days. However, I do agree that workers should be treated with respect and not like numbers.

        1. skatee
          skatee October 8, 2014 at 9:48 pm | | Reply

          You yourself have OBVIOUSLY have not worked at a NP, which is why you are clueless in giving such a reply. I am in a technical, mid-management position and FULLY agree with what she said.

          1. Dave
            Dave October 10, 2014 at 8:40 am |

            Hey, I think I know you! It is sad, I had no idea just how bad it was, even through our phone conversations. I hate unions, but I think you guys have a good case to start one!
            Dave

  2. Wage Slaves in Our National Parks « Economics Info

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  3. Skywalker
    Skywalker June 2, 2012 at 10:04 am | | Reply

    I work for Xanterra at the Grand Canyon, and you are spot on in your assessment. Living conditions are deplorable, working conditions arent much better, most of the management is even worse. If I didnt have such a love for the park, backpacking, and the outdoors I wouldnt be here. Spread the word brother.

    1. Michael D. Yates
      Michael D. Yates June 2, 2012 at 3:17 pm | | Reply

      Skywalker,thanks for your comment. I have been posting my article on the various national parks facebook pages. Hopefully, this will increase the number of readers.

    2. Laura
      Laura April 15, 2013 at 10:11 pm | | Reply

      I worked for Xanterra in 2007-2008 and back in ’98 when it was Amfac – Both times at the Grand Canyon. Although the first time sucked (housing screwed up and my roomate was my damn manager), the 2nd time was not bad at all. Yeah, Colter Hall is old. It was built in the 30’s but that is part of the charm. I worked at both Hermit’s Rest and Desert View – yeah, hours were long. 10 hours a day/6 days a week and pay wasn’t great but who cares. Millions of people a year spend thousands of dollars to visit the park for a day or two. I had a whole year to explore. And my paychecks were about 500-700 dollars biweekly after they took out the $30 for housing. You want to talk abut slave labor? Take a good hard look at the Walt Disney College Program. They pay LESS then minimum wage since its an “internship” but in reality it is slave labor. We get free admission to the parks, they get thousands of college students for $7.05/hr. Housing – I paid $80/a week to share a 3 bed, 2 bath apartment with SIX outher females. There are no EDR’s or discount food options. You need to provide all food yourself at overpriced grocery stores. One of the housing complex’s is called VISTA WAY but it’s is more famously nown as VISTA LAY. It could make girls gone wild look tame!

      1. zako pane
        zako pane August 18, 2014 at 1:30 pm | | Reply

        Laura, you review is making me laugh. Glad that the second time around you were more acclimatized, which only seems natural.

        I was wondering what kind of safety briefing you folks were given as far as free time in the park? Are there signs posted along rives, streams, and lakes warning of dangerous waters? Were you told not to “float” the streams and or lakes? Did have a safety class conducted by Park Rangers?

        If you have anymore stories or photos, please share. You can post them on the FB Yellowstone National Park Employee Alumni page, too.

        take care,

        zako

  4. A Wray
    A Wray June 5, 2012 at 2:16 pm | | Reply

    Yep, I was GTNP and Yellowstone 2004-2007. Grand Teton Lodge Company one year: miserable. Flagg Ranch Resort: not half as bad. They’re privately run and treat employees with slightly more respect but it is still pretty terrible (hours etc).

    1. Michael D. Yates
      Michael D. Yates June 5, 2012 at 8:42 pm | | Reply

      A Wray,I posted this on several facebook national park sites. No one yet has had anything good to say about these employers. wonder why?

  5. Joan Van Tassel
    Joan Van Tassel June 22, 2012 at 10:47 am | | Reply

    What an excellent post! I traveled to six national parks in the Four Corners area in May and found conditions that are described accurately in this blog post. Foreign migrant workers, low wages, no benefits, poor living conditions, and supervisorial intimidation of workers. The service to visitors is also declining and prices are going much higher.

    This is no less than government mandated and enforced guaranteed profit — where’s the competition? It’s a shame to stay in the parks…just outside the gates are better accommodations and meals are much lower prices, offering greater amenities. We found that except at Mesa Verde, which are so remote, there are no motels right outside the gate! Otherwise, stay away. Better yet, write to your congress critter and the National Park Service and complain about the over commercialization of our parks.

    1. Michael D. Yates
      Michael D. Yates June 22, 2012 at 11:30 am | | Reply

      Joan, Thanks for your excellent comment. Yes, we should all demand of our public officials that they do something about this. Michael Yates

  6. Bryan
    Bryan June 23, 2012 at 8:23 am | | Reply

    Here we see greed at work because amidst the high profit that these entrepreneurs or owners are earning, they can’t even give a decent lodging and food for those working for them and who contributes to creating that profit for the company.

  7. Paul Hardt
    Paul Hardt July 6, 2012 at 12:35 pm | | Reply

    Who owns our National Parks?

    This was the question the came to my mind, after staying at Yellowstone and Grand Tetons just last week. Everywhere, we saw Xanterra employees. They were very reticent to talk about the organization and didn’t want to talk about who owned it and ran it. When we visited Yellowstone in 1988, many of the jobs now done by Xanterra were done by NPS employees….which means, lots of the profit from the Parks today goes to a billionaire, not put back into employee benefits, park maintenance, etc. Philip Anschutz is commonly identified as the “Christian Republican philanthropist.” He gives money to global climate change deniers and “intelligent design” promoters. See the Wikipedia article about him. He is a heavy contributor to conservative political and religious organizations. I plan on contacting my Senators to make them aware of this and try to get some kind of investigation going.

    1. Michael D. Yates
      Michael D. Yates July 6, 2012 at 12:41 pm | | Reply

      Paul, Thanks for the informative note. I will check out that wikipedia entry. The national parks continue to deteriorate, in more ways than one. If Anschutz has his way, commercialism will reign still more supreme. Let us know what your senators say. Michael Yates

      1. Rhonda Fonda
        Rhonda Fonda August 3, 2014 at 8:43 am | | Reply

        Michael.

        Would you please email me? My teenage child is working in a national park and I have some serious concerns not addressed in you article. I need help/direction.

        Thank you

    2. Laurie
      Laurie October 27, 2013 at 8:39 pm | | Reply

      Hi Paul, you hit on a something most people fail to realize. I applaud your efforts and hope to hear if you get any type of reply. That billionaire that runs Yellowstone National Park, he does not even have a clear idea of what goes on there. When he visits things are clean up. When the owner or a government representative visits, rooms are specially prepped for such visits. That are not put in a room with a leaky roof or mold growing on the window seals. I walked passed the laundry room at Mammoth hotel several days per week while I was there, each time I would cringed.

      1. Aaron
        Aaron July 21, 2014 at 4:03 pm | | Reply

        I currently work at Mammoth hotel as a housekeeper and you are right. When management hears of NPS inspections everything gets cleaned up and all the maintenance problems get fixed but quickly fall into disrepair after they have left.The housing is awful and the food is worse. The international staff are all college students some paid $5000 to come and work here just to scrub toilets 6 days a week and is it’s not 6 days of work it’s 2 and a half where you make almost no money after they take out the cost of poor living conditions and over priced low quality food. However the international staff is as interesting as living in Yellow Stone. Beautiful place lots of new interesting ideas form all over the world. That’s why I’m still here but I don’t think I’ll do a second season under these conditions.

  8. REDHEADED RANTER
    REDHEADED RANTER July 7, 2012 at 4:11 am | | Reply

    As a current employee at the Grand Canyon, I can say the issues have little to do with Mr. Anschutz and more to do with a long standing corporate mentality that takes for granted the contract within each park is locked up secure.

    Personally, my view is that very few companies would tolerate the micromanagement that NPS has over the concessionaire. NPS likes Xanterra because they can bully Xanterra. I can’t imagine a Marriott, Sheraton or the likes tolerating NPS telling them exactly what they are allowed to have on the menus, the exact decor of every building,down to what types and colors of paints are tolerated, etc. Xanterra is easy to bully.

    Seriously, why should NPS care if a restaurant serves toast or what color the paint is in a guest room? Guest and employee safety should be their concern, but they waste time on things like I just listed and basically ignore safety. And Xanterra is fully aware that NPS does not focus on this, and does not take time to care for it themselves. Black mold in employee housing, broken appliances and furniture, rodents, and overgrown weeds-things that would never survive code in a major city are common. NPS overlooks these issues.

    Do I think NPS needs more funding? Perhaps.But what funding there is needs to be redirected toward safety issues and not to the micromangement of the concession. Our government is not in business to run hotels- leave that to private businessmen! Perhaps if it were left to private businessmen to run the hotels, and they did not feel bullied by NPS, the parks could operated by concessionaires who took care of their employees and guests alike, instead of a corporation that is rated asone of the worst in this country to work for.

    I doubt Mr. Anschutz’s personal politics have anything to do with the deplorable conditions in the parks. Much of it is the fault of NPS whose focus is entirely misdirected.

    As a Christian conservative myself, I would like to see a little more of the golden rule and respect for a Creator God that we will one day answer to for the way we have treated others and stewarded that which God has blessed us with- i.e., the park’s natural beauty- be a relevant part of the park’s management. I think it is exactly that disrespect that causes our problems in the first place.

    Yes, Xanterra is a poor choice of concessioanires. But until we encourage a better comcessionaire to come within the park bounds by allowingc them to run a business as they known it shold be run, things will only change for the worse.

  9. REDHEADED RANTER
    REDHEADED RANTER July 7, 2012 at 4:13 am | | Reply

    Yes, I realize there are some typos in my posting. Please excuse them and look at the message itself.

    1. Michael D. Yates
      Michael D. Yates July 7, 2012 at 7:46 am | | Reply

      Redheaded Ranter, Thanks for your note. You make many good points. I have no love for the NPS either. Rangers work collecting money at the gates, when they could be doing bettr things. New trails are not built, horses run amok on trails, and a spirit of commercialism reigns. We have disagreements about the concessionaires, although we agree on some things. One matter you don’t mention is wages. I don’t think the NPS sets these, and there is no reason why the concessionaire can’t raise these. And they could improve at least the interiors of worker hou sing, cut weeds, etc. All in all, the whole park system is deteriorating, and no one seems to care much. Again, though, thanks for your message. And don’t worry about typos. I make plenty myself!

    2. Annabelle
      Annabelle February 20, 2014 at 3:14 pm | | Reply

      I’m considering working at GC for Xan this season. Not doing it for the money… Are there alternatives for housing – I’m in my 30’s, no desire to do a dorm environment, plus I have considerable food allergies… Thoughts? I have a car – I’d be happier sleeping in my tent than a roomie or finding alternative housing.

      1. Sage
        Sage April 27, 2014 at 4:51 pm | | Reply

        Annabelle- curious what you found out about housing? I am considering GNP this summer, also in my 30’s. Does anyone know the current pay rate for seasonal workers with Xan? For 2014?

        1. Skies
          Skies May 26, 2014 at 6:39 pm | | Reply

          I’m going to work in Yellowstone for the summer as a server and I’ll be making $4/hr plus tips. Housing/food is 200/bi-weekly. I figure, if I hate it I can always just leave.

      2. Sue
        Sue June 23, 2014 at 5:28 pm | | Reply

        I am considering a job offer to work at Desert View in GC year round. I just would like a clear view what I might expect as far as housing and pay rate. Anyone have an idea. Would this really be worth the move?

        1. raisinmtr
          raisinmtr September 25, 2014 at 9:57 am | | Reply

          Desert View year-round is a sweet, albeit somewhat remote gig, with relatively decent housing.

      3. Admiral Whiskers
        Admiral Whiskers July 17, 2014 at 5:33 pm | | Reply

        If you have an RV, many parks have RV sites set aside for employee use.

  10. goetz wiedmann
    goetz wiedmann September 6, 2012 at 12:08 am | | Reply

    a coment from a recent german visitor of yellowstone

    in the motherland of capitalism this kind of monopoly position of e.g. xanterra – at least interesting – some competition might improve conditions for workers and guests.

    See on the xanterra webpage the information that workers who fulfill there contract get a 3$ per day extra at the end – how bad must the conditions be to implement such kind of thing – But why should the pay more than absolutely necessary as long as enough people will do this jobs – Profit maximizing seems to be a true feature of the capitalisic system. And in other areas (e.g. textile workers in developing countries) we also don´t care about conditions as long as we save money.

  11. Janet W
    Janet W September 19, 2012 at 6:27 pm | | Reply

    This concessionaire presence in national parks is not only bad for workers–but bad for travelers. My family stayed in the signature tent cabins of Yosemite in late August — run by Delaware North Company — where the recent hantavirus outbreak occurred. I am trying to make sense of the relationship between the NPS and the concessionaires and in the midst of my research I came across a comparative analysis of NPS, state park and international parks as they relate to several facets of contractual terms of concessionaires. One thing that I found very interesting and disturbing (and is related to lodging for both workers and travelers) is that the NPS concessionaire contracts require the concessionaires to set aside a maintenance fund for repairs of buildings, etc. The state parks and the international parks also require concessionaires to set money aside for maintaining facilities. However, the NPS RETURNS the balance of the fund to the concessionaire at the end of the year giving the concessionaire NO incentive to make the necessary improvements!

    1. Michael D. Yates
      Michael D. Yates September 19, 2012 at 6:49 pm | | Reply

      Thanks, Janet. The more I learn about the parks, the worse I feel!

  12. Catheryn
    Catheryn November 30, 2012 at 12:26 am | | Reply

    I am speaking from the standpoint of a local who is lived in Yellowstone (or surronding community) my whole life . I’m willing to shed a little light on the subject.

    1) This year the concession contract is up for bid i.e. who is willing to contribute the most to the maintenance fund which is used by the NPS for special maintenance projects – roads, buildings, trails, and cell towers (the #1 visitor complaint is lack of cellphone service).

    2)The rangers at the gate are not real rangers, they’re “interpretive” rangers meaning their only job is to talk to visitors. Agreed, slighty ridiculous, but that is their job description.

    3)You’re all right. The lack of competition fosters the poor living conditions and deplorable pay. What’s also kind of discouraging is Xanterra hires a high percentage of those with criminal pasts because they’re sometimes the only ones desperate enough for the pay.(cause it makes sense to hire sex offenders to live in co-ed dorms right?)

    4)As a concessionaire worker, most are there for the scenery and the experience – not the income. Which is sad, because many tourists leave Yellowstone with a bad taste in their mouth due to crappy customer service and astronomical prices.

    1. Michael D. Yates
      Michael D. Yates November 30, 2012 at 8:38 am | | Reply

      Thanks, Catheryn,

      It’s a sad state of affairs that private contractors run the parks at all, and that true rangers are used for what they should be trained to do. Money rules the day in every aspect of our public lands, including the parks. Thanks for your comments.

      Michael Yates

    2. SY
      SY February 24, 2013 at 4:07 pm | | Reply

      Let me correct a couple of things Catheryn has said here. First off, the NPS does not use money paid by concession operators to pay for cell tower expenses. Those towers belong to the carriers and the carriers are responsible for them. Neither NPS nor any of the concession operators have anything to do with them.

      Second, all NPS personnel who wear the green and gray uniform are rangers. There’s no such thing as a “real” ranger vs. one who is not. There are different categories of rangers, however. There are the law enforcement rangers, who are federal police officers. There are interpretive rangers, who are the ones who staff the visitor centers, give guided talks/walks, etc. And so forth. The gate operators are known as Visitor Use Assistants (VUAs), and they work for the Chief Ranger (the head of the law enforcement division), and they are just as much rangers as is every other green and gray wearing person working in the park. Don’t denigrate their service because they don’t carry guns. And the interps do far more than just “talk to the visitors.” I’m surprised someone who claims to have lived in the area for so long isn’t aware of these basic facts.

      Having said all of this, the general bent of the article is right on the money. Xanterra is really bad about hiring people who shouldn’t be there – they have to hire over 3,000 people each summer, though, and that’s the size of many small cities in the country, With that many people, some are going to be criminals.

      Xanterra also goes out of its way to fire people for the least little thing. I’ve seen them fire someone who’s worked for them full time for 20 years for a simple administrative error, yet near the end of the season when staffing gets tight, they allowed someone found possessing a HUGE quantity of drugs to stay on the job.

      There’s an old rumor that goes around every year about the site Personnel Managers getting their bonuses based on the number of people they fire. I haven’t been able to prove that isn’t true (I’ve worked for Xanterra). The housing sucks in many instances, too, as was pointed out in the article, and the EDR food…just, damn, it gets really disgusting by mid-season. There is a reason why Xanterra is consistently rated as one of the worst companies in America to work for.

      As for internationals, Xanterra hires a bunch of them, but they have a good reason to do so. The American kids they hire get to the point where they just want to get drunk, lay around and not work. They don’t have that problem with the Internationals. Those kids come in, put a full day’s effort in, don’t drink, don’t steal shit, and don’t cause much trouble at all (occasional exceptions, of course). But the point about those kids ending up in the hole when they leave is right on, too. Very, very few of those kids return because they always end up shafted at the end of the season. Xanterra has two people from Yellowstone alone who travel to other countries to try to get the Internationals to work in the park.

      Anyway, Catheryn’s misstatements notwithstanding, the vast majority of the article itself is right on the money.

  13. Andrew
    Andrew January 14, 2013 at 5:58 pm | | Reply

    This is all so damn true!!!, I worked for Xanterra’s location in Death Valley, for 2 years in which time i spend doing deplorable work, lived in shitty employee housing with black mold and Asbestos popcorn ceilings, often shared rooms with many undesirables, including, drunks, drug addicts,and undesirable foreign workers, etc.

    the food is fucking horrible! you are forced to eat in a cramped employee dining dungeon, given less than 30 min to force down the MSG/ frozen warmed up food you are rationed, often the cooks take so long to serve you once you finally get your food you get about 12 min to eat it.

    At the location I worked at I was once at in death valley, one night i was watching tv in my employee dorm room to suddenly be startled by high pitch screams, the screams were coming from down the hall about 3 doors down, i quickly threw on some clothes because i thought a woman was being beaten to death, i pushed open the door to this room where the girl was screaming thinking i had to pull some drunk guy off his girlfriend, although what i saw was far from the truth it wasn’t a fight at all but a suicide!, the girls boyfriend has hung himself by the neck from the shower head in the bathroom with an electrical cord…

    I will never forget the sight of the dead man and the state of horror, and shock i was in at that moment in time…

    Xanterra of course swept this incident under the carpet as usual, in fact i was forced to attend work the very next day after witnessing this atrocity, i was even the one that rushed to the phone to report the incident, i have been really fucking emotionally disturbed ever since.

    Although later i found out that the suicide I witnessed was not a solitary event, in fact a year before it happened another employee before I worked there committed suicide by shooting himself in the face with a shotgun…

    Thankfully due to family circumstances i left Xanterra thank god…

    PLEASE! ANYONE SEEKING EMPLOYMENT FOR XANTERRA DO NOT BE FOOLED OR SUCKERED INTO THIS SLAVERY SCAM.

    SAVE YOURSELF I AM SPEAKING FROM PERSONAL EXPERIENCE, YOU WILL REGRET WORKING FOR THESE NAZI’S…….

    1. Michael D. Yates
      Michael D. Yates January 14, 2013 at 6:42 pm | | Reply

      Thanks, Andrew. This is a shocking story. Yes, those who run the concessions in our parks are among the worst and most despicable employers. Your advice at the end is sound, to put it mildly. I hope that you are OK. Please take care of yourself. Michael Yates

    2. Robert
      Robert August 14, 2014 at 8:12 pm | | Reply

      Wow. Andrew I was right across the hall from you in that dorm that fateful night. I should say I have seen that girl from time to time in the parks and she is doing well, although she does not work in the parks any more.

      I stumbled upon this blog post while filling out applications. I won’t repeat any thing in the blog post since it is very accurate. I will add Americans are not lazy drunkards as some have implied. The internationals can get just as crazy and are also poor performers on the job. I am a 10 year victim of the concession life and my time working in the parks at least with Xanterra will end soon. As in my case the concession companies don’t try to keep reliable employees like myself who’s only goal is to improve guest’s vacations in any way possible. Although I will say conditions have improved slightly and I have managed to get 401k and health, it is because I have struggled to stay with the company and have overlooked all their underhanded dealings. There will never be a professional class of employee in the parks. The guy that owns Xanterra has very little to do with how the parks are run, it is all dictated by NPS and it is they who needs to fix this problem. Xanterra has invested about 135 million into YNP( and get the contract for 15 more years) and now the penny pinching begins. My job has been combined with others and they now lose a mature professional employee. As I tell people my tolerance for the mistreatment is a testament to my love for the parks.

  14. MamaBird
    MamaBird February 3, 2013 at 10:33 pm | | Reply

    I have to say, I spent several seasons working for Xanterra at GCSR, and in general, it was great. Xanterra is certainly no worse than any other company I’ve ever worked for–sure, they care little about the well-being of their employees, but like I said, no less so than any other company I’ve come across.

    Ultimately, the only reasons I left Xanterra were a) my position left no room for advancement (because the people in the positions above me had grown up in the park and essentially had tenure/were never going to leave…but this was a position that was above minimum wage, and had the status for decent housing, which I worked my way up to. The specific politics of my department were my hindrance to advancement, not Xanterra itself). And b) I was in my mid-20’s and felt like, socially, I was wasting my best years. I absolutely loved my community there–made up of Xanterra, NPS, GCA, Delaware North, and Tusayan folks–but I was surrounded by folks in their late 30’s and up. I rather enjoyed the simplicity of life there, but I knew that I’d wake up in 10 years and wish I’d spent my 20’s being a 20-something, not going to bed at 8pm several nights a week.

    I understand that my experience is limited to specifically what I’ve experienced. I know that Xanterra life isn’t always pleasant–the time I spent in the dorms wasn’t my favorite–but it wasn’t any worse than it would have been elsewhere. Guess what, working retail or waiting tables or cleaning hotel rooms in the “real world” would have landed me in equally as bad or worse living conditions as at Xanterra (and yes, I can say that with absolute certainty, because I still work in one of those fields, in management, and the current housing I can afford is worse than Xanterra’s). The kinds of positions that Xanterra employs don’t earn a living wage ANYWHERE. That doesn’t make it right, not at all, but it doesn’t make Xanterra any worse than anyone else.

  15. Michael D. Yates
    Michael D. Yates February 4, 2013 at 4:30 pm | | Reply

    MamaBird,

    Fair enough, though yours is a distinct minority of the responses so far. You are wrong though about workers elsewhere in the economy. Lots them make living wages doing work people at Xanterra do. Room attendants in Las Vegas, for example, with a strong union,do make a living wage and good benefits. Lots of cooks do too. Others as well.

    Michael Yates

  16. J
    J February 16, 2013 at 6:22 pm | | Reply

    I stumbled across this on a google search about Yellowstone concessionaires. I was researching for a friend who’s thinking about applying for a dining room serving position this coming summer. I have worked seasonally in the park for DNC for 3 seasons now. After reading reviews, I am glad that I don’t work for Xanterra. DNC had decent EDR food, we generally didn’t work more than 40 hours/week, and people were not randomly fired. But there were still issues.

    But as for working for DNC, they are all about making money. Guestpath is just a front for the company to pursue money-making avenues, which include low wages, high rent/food/medical costs for seasonal employees. Don’t get me started on their Greenpath program. It’s kind of ironic that DNC has Greenpath when most items used in their soda fountains are disposable. I would love to see a statistic on how many tons of waste are produced each year.

    It seems like every year I go back, working conditions deteriorate a little more. For example, this past summer we had a enough drama to film a reality series there. The shortened version is that we had some internationals try to game the US immigration law by getting ‘married’ to other seasonal workers so they could remain in the US. It was a nightmare. They had no respect for anyone else, and management should have fired them. But they didn’t because they didn’t want to get involved in a liability issue. These people finally quit, but then everyone worked 6 days/week until the end of the season (this was mid-August).

    It’s a shame because I love living in the parks as I am a major hiker. But I would love to see these companies care a little more about their seasonal employees because the tourists do notice how tired and disheartened employees are. But I doubt anything will be done about it.

    1. Michael D. Yates
      Michael D. Yates February 16, 2013 at 8:14 pm | | Reply

      Dear J, Does DNC run what used to be called the Hamilton Stores? Sounds like conditions are none too good, which is what most of the comments here say about park work in general.as well. It is tooo bad, and not right either. Why should those who work in our parks be treated badly? Maybe I will start writing to people in Congress about this. BTW, there have been some insane soap opera type things in Yellowstone with Xanterra. A friend of ours worked there after we left, and for several years she kept us posted about work at Yellowstone. Some crazy stuff! Thanks for posting about your eperiences.

    2. Joe Selzer
      Joe Selzer February 24, 2013 at 3:56 pm | | Reply

      Did you work at Old Faithful this story sounds exactly like what happened last year.

  17. J
    J February 18, 2013 at 6:05 pm | | Reply

    Dear Michael,

    Yes, DNC runs what used to be Hamilton Stores. I believe they took over around 2003/2004 because a lot of my friends from the 2005 season, missed the Hamilton years.

  18. Joe Selzer
    Joe Selzer February 24, 2013 at 3:58 pm | | Reply

    DNC took over in 2003 that was my first year,still work there no problems with this company for me.

  19. rosaleen gianakos
    rosaleen gianakos February 24, 2013 at 6:50 pm | | Reply

    We worked for Hamilton Stores Inc. a family operated corp. Couldn’t have asked for better….they were good to their help.

  20. Ria J L
    Ria J L February 26, 2013 at 12:27 pm | | Reply

    This article brings up some good points. But also overlooks some stuff. I worked for Xanterra at Grand Canyon South Rim for a summer, and then for Ceder Fair in Ohio and I will be headed out to Yellowstone this summer.

    Housing at Grand Canyon was not that bad, but it does depended on who you choose to hang around. Considering how little you pay to stay so close to some of the most amazing places anywhere, its pretty ok. You are in a remote area so there might be critters, if you are not ok with that I am not sure why you would be going out to yellowstone or grand canyon in the first place. They can put up hotels and shops, but it is rugged wilderness if you step off the trail!

    Are you a “wage slave” maybe, but for many of the people working there, even just seasonally, would they really be better off working minimum wage for a similar company in the inner city? It is a risk to go out there… But if you don’t get involved in crazy drunken parties or do drugs and show to up to work and do your best your probably won’t get fired. I knew a few people who got fired from Grand Canyon, and I know why they got fired. If I was in management I would have fired them too.

    I defiantly agree with the thing about foreign workers… but then again I think the company’s need to go recruit foreign workers says more negative things about american work ethics then the companies policies. However with that said it would be nice if they recruited more here in the states, at college campuses and so on.

    In the end I think it is a lifestyle choice. You will run into people who feel stuck and hate it. But you run into that everywhere. Most people know the risks when they go out. I know I do, I’ve read some pretty crappy stuff on the internet but for me I would rather take the chance to go somewhere amazing that I can’t afford to vacation to, make a bit of a paycheck (in a state with a higher minimum wage than my own) even if it means crappy housing and crappy work. Cedar Fair definatly stank, but who else would have hired me for 3 months? If I stayed home I would probably have a crappy job anyway.

    1. Michael D. Yates
      Michael D. Yates February 26, 2013 at 12:42 pm | | Reply

      Ria J.L. Thanks for sharing your experiences. Maybe what we should be thinking is why any job pays a very low wage or has bad conditions, no matter where it is. And maybe we need to ask why our government would grant concessions to private companies, which are then allowed to do basically what they please in terms of employment conditions. Why shouldn’t our government set the tone for good working conditions, which might then put pressure on all employers to follow suit. I get upset with the argument that, well, jobs are even worse someplace else, so this one isn’t so bad. We should all have greater expectations!

  21. Chris Millet
    Chris Millet March 1, 2013 at 6:45 am | | Reply

    I had the pleasure of working for Aranark in Denali National Park for the last 2 summers. While the ultimate reason I left was the lack of benefits and full time employment, I do have to way, McKinley Chalet Resort sure did things right for there employees. For $15 a day, employees got housing (which as of this fall were going through an upgrade process before guest rooms), 3 meals a day in the dining room, which always had a vegetarian option, as well as a better salad/ sandwich bar than the buffet restaurant, access to free laundry, fitness and activity center, and 50% off food at the restaurants and 25% off retail. I was a manager of the front desk, and my employees had shared housing with one other person, and shared a bathroom with one other room. Front Desk employees were also given the chance to do all excursions free at the beginning of the season, like helicoptor and airplane tours, atv’s, 4×4’s, golf, bus tours, etc. The wages were on the lower end, but all employees were given a end of contract bonus if they stayed until the end, wnich was .50 centa for every hour worked. Front desk alei received bi-weekly commision based on excursion sales. Are you going to get rich working at one of these places, not likely, but these were two of the best summer’s of my life, and I an a little sad that I am back in the real world.

  22. BCN
    BCN March 4, 2013 at 3:18 am | | Reply

    Ok yet another disgruntled employee perhaps? Sorry after 15 years, I’m not seeing a lot of what you say to be true. Yes the wages should be higher but, the living conditions no. The tent cabins in Yosemite are pretty bad but that’s one place. ever worked at grand canyon north rim staying in the “new dorm”. Its just like a nice hotel room with your own bathroom, walk in closet, and plenty of space. From my experience the only people who write up columns like this were usually the trouble makers that worked in the park and could not get away with having there cake and eat it to. And the statement about safety, uhhhhh ok back up. From the way you make it sound what, did you sleep through all the safety drilling they constantly harangue employee’s about?

  23. Doug
    Doug March 9, 2013 at 4:21 pm | | Reply

    Wow, what a response to your article. Didn’t have time to read through all of them but one thing that needs to be brought up is what happens to these employees during the off season. The only option is unemployment compensation as it is impossible to save enough during the tourist season being paid such a low wage to make it through the winter. Here in Utah, home to 5 National Parks, the employment season is generally 7 months long in a good year. That leaves a balance of 5 months for employees to survive on an allowance of $200 (less 15% taxes, thank you President Reagan)with a limit of $2600, or 13 weeks. Try paying your mortgage, car payment and feeding your kids on $170 a week. And whatever you do, don’t get sick. And did I mention that the Sate of Utah has no overtime compensation law?

    1. Michael D. Yates
      Michael D. Yates March 9, 2013 at 5:05 pm | | Reply

      Doug, Thank you for this. The response has been amazing. But what to do about it? Letters to Congress? You are right about surviving in the off season and health care. Also, what about employees having to pay their own transportation out of the park when the season ends, and then back to their jobs when the season begins again? Surely the companies could pay for it, certainly for those workers who have a long work history of working, leaving, and coming back for a new season, or those who move from park to park and work more or less year-round.

  24. Ron Doering
    Ron Doering March 14, 2013 at 9:38 am | | Reply

    I must say, while there are some good points made in this article, the generalizations are way to strong and I disagree with with the broad brush the author uses to paint the situation. I worked at Yellowstone for two seasons, and many of the “exploited” foreign workers I shared space and jobs with were back for second or third seasons. I lived at both Lake and Old Faithful, and while the living quarters at Old Faithful were old, they were comparable to many college dorm rooms across the country. When I worked for Aramark in Alaska, I found the living quarters to be a little more spartan, but again comparable to a college dorm room. As for the complaint that the jobs don’t provide year round housing and employment, that’s correct, they don’t. The very nature of the jobs is that they are seasonal.

  25. R
    R March 14, 2013 at 11:55 pm | | Reply

    To Doug: Utah doesn’t necessarily need an overtime compensation law. Overtime is regulated by the Fair Labor Standards Act (a federal law, meaning it applies to all U.S. states). This law guarantees overtime pay for anyone working non-management, non-professional, etc. hourly wage positions making less than $455 per week. If the law has been violated it is up to the victim of that law to report the issue to the Utah Labor Commission.

    For those that believe rangers that collect entrance fees should be doing better things for the parks than collecting money: The Federal Land Recreation Enhancement Act provides for the collection of fees in federal lands. Someone has to do the collecting, unfortunately/fortunately it is left to a federal employee. In NPS’s case, it is left to a visitor use assistant (ranger) to collect those fees. It is law, and the law has to be carried out by someone.

    As for all NPS employees being rangers, this is subjective and debatable. Yes, all NPS employees have the option of wearing uniforms, some positions are mandated to wear uniforms. I would pose the question though, is an I.T. systems administrator at a park a ranger? How about budget technician? Maybe a park vehicle mechanic is a ranger? What about a contract representative? Meh, to each their own. I’d like to think they are all rangers at heart, but it is still debatable.

    As for bullying concessionaires like Xanterra; I worked for NPS for several years in one of the top ten most visited parks in a budget management capacity (as well as several ranger positions). I never saw bullying of concessionaires, and I never “bullied” them either. Concessionaires are under a time-limited contract with NPS to provide services. Xanterra and others happen to put in the most amicable/beneficial bid each time contracts are publicly announced for bid requests. The concessionaires that have filled back to back contracts continue to get awarded these contracts in part because they state they are able to provide services for the lowest cost. The government likes low cost. One way the concessionaire is able to do this is by providing what could be considered an unacceptable work condition by many former concessionaire employees.

    Is NPS micromanaging concessionaires? I do not believe so, especially from my experience with the Park Service. They are too busy micromanaging other things, concessions micromanagement is low on the list. They do however benefit from money generated from concessionaires. The concessionaires provide funding for special projects inside the park that are taken on by NPS.

    As for requiring the concessionaire to set aside funding for maintenance of the buildings they conduct operations in; that requirement is individual to each contract. Not all contracts require money to be set aside for maintenance. Occasionally, concessionaires operate out of historic structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places. These are maintained by trained cultural resources staff (archaeologists, preservationists, anthropologists, etc.) and skilled maintenance staff rather than concessionaire employees. Sometimes the concessionaire is responsible for the maintenance of the building. If the living conditions of a structure inside the park are deplorable, and the concessionaire won’t do anything about it, please please please inform NPS management of the park. There are many funding sources available to fix these kinds of problems. No one should have to live in a deplorable building, especially when the visitor rooms around them are often near luxury status.

    As for the comments regarding working for less than minimum wage after housing, food, and insurance are deducted from paychecks; I’m sorry that’s a very spun way of looking at things. Dang, I work for less than minimum wage too after “I” deduct rent, student loan payments, car payments, insurance, utilities, and food too. Just because you chose to live in concessionaire provided housing, accept their meal plan, etc. and “they” deduct it from your wages before you receive your check doesn’t mean you work for less than minimum wage. Although I say this, it doesn’t mean that you don’t work for abysmally low, unfair wages. Please note that no one forced anyone to work for the concessionaires in parks. Baiting foreign individuals, students, and others with rainbows, learning experiences, sunsets, incomprehensible compensation packages, and promises of hopes and desires that can’t be guaranteed, or controlled by the concessionaire, is unfair, wrong, deceitful, and should be stopped immediately when it happens.

    Living in the resort areas around parks is expensive, and employees should receive wages that allow them to have decent living conditions. Unfortunately NPS has no control over this, and it is solely up to the concessionaire to determine wages. The obligation that the concessionaire has with NPS is to provide services to the visitors of the park. How they choose to do that is ‘generally’ up to the concessionaire as long as they follow applicable state and federal laws. The concessionaire only runs into serious trouble with NPS if they fail to deliver their end of the contract (providing visitor services). This is difficult to change, the best way of changing the situation is by voting with your feet (many seem to do this by quitting in droves throughout the season), and then writing the park management, regional NPS management, your representative, and the contract officer that approved the contract or put out the bid request for services. These bids are public information, and often those involved in the process have their names attached to the bid request. If the contract officers are aware of unreasonable situations that occur with concessionaires, they will have a justifiable reason to deny the contract to an underperforming concessionaire when the contract is up for bid again.

    As for the living quarters in Yosemite that are basically cement boxes with a canvas roof and other similar housing units; If those housing units couldn’t pass a building inspection in a nearby city or town, they should not be allowed to be used as “housing” for concessionaire employees. Putting people in sub-par ‘housing’ is wrong, and then charging them for it is ridiculous.

    Crazy things happen in any business and area where the labor force is seasonal, large, and unstable. This is hard to fix in a tourist related park where things are so dependent upon weather, school schedules, etc. If tourism was consistent, stable employment, long-term employees, and a less haphazard environment would exist. A good comparison would be cruise ships and the community of seasonal, transitory, and temporary employees that live/work on them.

    Yes things need to get better in regards to concessionaires and the contracts they operate under as well as the way they operate. It is a huge issue that will cost a ton of money to the tax payer, a huge time investment by NPS, and more public attention needs to be brought to the issue. However, it needs to be done constructively, and that is the most difficult thing of all. Everyone wants to rant and rave, but it is very difficult to get all parties to sit down amicably to invest the time and resources into improving the situation.

    Just 2 cents from someone who spent several years working in several positions in a big park.

  26. Ellen
    Ellen June 18, 2013 at 12:54 pm | | Reply

    I must say that if it wasn’t for me working for Xanterra in Yellowstone, I would be up sh*t creek quite literally. The program here, yes it’s a lot of hard work, but compared to other seasonal jobs it’s actually pretty nice. Before you go bashing these seasonal jobs, why don’t you take a look at the DIRTY industry of Amusement Parks—where because of being under the dept. of agriculture in most cases, the employees earn LESS than minimum wage, barely make enough money to support themselves.

    Here in Yellowstone, we are provided dorms which come out of our pay check, as well as 3 meals a day (may not be the best, but its food). Whereas places outside of the park are now giving less than 30 hours a week because they don’t wish to be paying the healthcare insurance for their employees, housing rates for an apartment are more than a person earns, and sometimes people are having to pick up 2 or more jobs just to support themselves….

    I am happily returning to the park, yes the hours are long, sometimes the work not so glamorous, but I’m getting at least 40 hours a week, with food and housing for less than an apartment outside the park would cost. As I said maybe before you bash these type of jobs, you should look at Amusement parks where the employees could easily work 80+ hour weeks, WITHOUT being provided overtime due to how the parks are classified, and having to choose cheap food to live off of due to not making much money….

    1. Michael D. Yates
      Michael D. Yates June 23, 2013 at 6:13 am | | Reply

      Ellen, Thanks for your comments. I am glad that things worked out for you. However, I thinkk that sometimes we have too great a tendency to look down, so to speak, at situations worse than our own and say, well, it could be worse. I was born in a shack in a coal mining town, with no hot water or indoor plumbing. Was this better than living in the woods. Yes. However, the owners of the mine, who got lots of money only because they owned the mine, lived a lot better. They certainly didn’t work harder than the miners. Xanterra is owned by one man, who is one of the richest in the world. Huge profits flow to him whether he works or not. We could take the view that we should do what we can to make sure that all working people get a good wage and benefits. He certainly could afford it as far as NP workers are concerned.

  27. Suzi Woods
    Suzi Woods June 22, 2013 at 10:36 pm | | Reply

    I am relieved to read some of the balanced comments by: Ron Doering, Ria J L,R, Ellen, Chris Millet, BCN , as I am headed for Grand Canyon South Rim by July 3 to work for Xanterra in Guest Services.

    From my job offer, I know what my wages will be. I expect to share a dorm room in Colter Hall. I don’t know what it looks like, but I will bring bleach in case I see mold. I will pick up groceries if I don’t like the employee meals. We are allowed to bring in a mini frig and a microwave.

    The Job offer tells you about standing 8 hours a day or more. Its the job, duhhh.

    I am looking forward to the Rec center ($10), waking up and going to sleep in THE Grand Canyon, attending some worship services, and basically–enjoying the gift of being there.

    I do not do drugs, or consume alcohol–it seems like that may be where some of the trouble is. I enjoy guest services even though it is traditionally a low paying job.

    I tend to blog and report. So, I plan to report the truth as I find it. I’ll be back with you guys in about a month:-)

    1. Michael D. Yates
      Michael D. Yates June 23, 2013 at 5:02 am | | Reply

      Suzi, Yes let us know how it goes!

  28. CARY DAVIS
    CARY DAVIS June 30, 2013 at 9:12 pm | | Reply

    I HAVE WORKED FOR XANTERRA FOR TEN YEARS…..I FIND IN LIFE..IT IS, WHAT YOU MAKE IT….FEAR NO LABOR…AND BE GLAD IN THIS WORLD..YOU HAVE A JOB TO COMPLAIN ABOUT

    1. Michael D. Yates
      Michael D. Yates July 1, 2013 at 7:18 am | | Reply

      Cary, Thanks for this. I would say that it isn’t a question of fearing labor. It is instead a matter of being paid appropriately for it. Of having some rights on the job. Take care, Michael Yates

  29. Dawn
    Dawn July 8, 2013 at 8:28 pm | | Reply

    My 18 year old daughter and her boyfriend are leaving at the end of July to work at the Geand canyon. I need to see a picture of these “dorm” rooms and I need to know that they will be safe. Please provide any useful feedback. Where do they go grocery shopping, where is the nearest hospital?

    1. raisinmtr
      raisinmtr September 25, 2014 at 1:59 pm | | Reply

      they’re dorm rooms, like college dorms– boxes. There is a grocery store run by Delaware North on the south rim, within walking or bike distance of any Xanterra housing. It’s not a big-city Sam’s Club, but it does have pretty much everything a normal small-town grocery store carries, and although it’s not cheap, the rates are capped by the NPS to keep them from overcharging. There are also “discount bags” available to locals that make it more affordable.

      There is a walk-in clinic available on the south rim. The nearest hospital is in Flagstaff, 74 miles away. The Grand Canyon is remote, no two ways about it.

      As for “knowing they will be safe,” there is no guarantee anywhere about safety– but I would feel your kid is as safe as any kid away from home for college, etc.– if she pays attention to the safety orientation (which they do give), treats the Canyon with the respect it requires, and acts with the caution that any young woman or man should when choosing peers and recreational activities.

  30. Rosemary Regello
    Rosemary Regello July 25, 2013 at 12:08 am | | Reply

    Good post and comments. I’m a former seasonal employee of Delaware North (Yosemite), Xanterra (Grand Canyon) and Aramark, and can validate most of the claims made in both the post and responses. I wrote an article about the Yosemite concessions contract (which is up for grabs still, I think). It’s available online at http://www.thecityedition.com/Pages/Archive/2010/Yosemite_Trekker/Post_072710.html.

    I also made a video about working in the national parks, including concessions jobs. This is where you’ll find lots of detail about the problems and vulnerabilities that workers face. It’s on YouTube. Use “national parks jobs” to find it from the main page of the site. You’ll see TheCityEdition as the account listed. All the best.

    1. Laurie
      Laurie October 27, 2013 at 8:29 pm | | Reply

      Hi Rosemary! It sounds like you also have a lot of great knowledge that would be instrumental in my research. I would love to speak with you. Maybe I can contact you on facebook?

  31. Sapphire
    Sapphire July 27, 2013 at 10:19 pm | | Reply

    My husband and I are working for DNC in Yellowstone. We arrived in May and at first we had no major complaints. The dorm is awful, but the food was good. Then the internationals arrived, way too many were hired. Now we’ve all had our hours cut to 22-26 a week. We were all told we would be working 32-35 hours a week. The internationals who borrowed money to get here as well as those depending on this job for their livelihood are in a world of hurt. The store is so understaffed that the shelves aren’t stocked and there are never enough cash registers open, the lines are huge. I’ve seen tourists walk in, see the lines and immediately leave. I can’t understand what this f**ked up company is thinking. If they doled out a few more hours to their employees, shelves would be stocked, lines would be shorter and the company would make more money.

  32. Leo
    Leo October 8, 2013 at 9:34 am | | Reply

    I will agree on many of the points, at the same time, the experience working in the national parks for the international workers, is a boon to them in the long run. It gives them opportunities to improve their spoken English, an opportunity most would never receive in their home company. With better spoken English, they can work for multinational companies operating in their home country. I spent a year teaching spoken English in China after working in the national parks. Most of my students said that the ability to speak English was often 1000 more RMB per month or more. It is the opportunity for advancement. I do agree they are often treated like slave labor, but when most American employees can’t wait to run out the door when their shift ends (and later bitch about small paychecks) the international workers are asking the manager for extra hours, willing to go work in another department to get those extra hours. Some of their long hours are something they desire, some for added profit, some to break even on the investment of traveling to work there.

    1. Leah
      Leah July 10, 2014 at 8:54 am | | Reply

      Please note the difference in life courses in your comparison of chinese workers at the National Park and the poor American sap who has no managerial job waiting for them but only more black mold and delayed health expenses.

  33. Laurie
    Laurie October 13, 2013 at 4:21 pm | | Reply

    Hi Everyone,
    I am an older college student currently enrolled in an upper level anthology course for which I am doing a research paper on life within Yellowstone National Park with a focus on working for Xanterra. I have not been able to find a single good reference source about this subject. If anyone has a suggestion I would be extremely appreciative. Two librarians have assisted me without any luck. Thus, I suppose this research paper will prove to be useful in the future. My goal is to complete an objective paper, so I encourage both Xanterra management and current and Ex-Xanterra employees to contact me to voice their own experiences and viewpoints and observations about this concessionaire. I invite Xanterra’s owner to contact me. My focus is the control this employer has over all aspects of the employees daily lives, the benefits and challenges of life in company housing. On a personal level, living inside the park was an awesome experience but living in deplorable employee housing that consisted of an extremely small dorm (much smaller than the description, was not so grand). My personal experience was enlightening. I can’t say that it is all bad nor all good. The question really is, does the good outweigh the bad and is this a place would want to send your daughter to work for a summer? Any historical facts are also welcome.

  34. J
    J December 12, 2013 at 11:35 pm | | Reply

    Great post! People need to be aware of the facts of the employee conditions in our national parks.

    I worked in Yosemite ’85-88 back then MCA (Yep the entertainment co.) managed the concessions. I was in my early 20’s and the housing was OK as long as you were in something with solid walls. Living in tents heated or not was not cool. I have to say that our furniture and dorms were in decent shape. I did travel to Death Valley when I worked at Yosemite. We talked to some of the emps and they didn’t seem very happy, and their accommodations were shit compared to what we had.

    It sounds like things have really gotten a lot worse in the last 25 years. But then profits are what drives everything these days, and if you can screw your employee and make more $ its the American way. :(

  35. K
    K December 17, 2013 at 12:26 pm | | Reply

    I worked for Xanterra at the south rim of the Grand Canyon. What I imagined and came to be were so totally the opposite. I got there and was sent to my studio apt. As I drove down the back hidden roads where the housing is, it became dirty and cluttered. I got to my apt and two workers were still in there cleaning it from the last pig. They took 16 hefty bags of garbage out of this tiny place and it stunk so bad, I would have went straight home but didn’t have a place to go back too. It took at least two weeks to get the smell out and I hated it. The housing parking lots are like junk yards with half taken apart cars and trucks spewed everywhere. Some employees have 5 cars and none of them run. Its a real shame Xanterra doesn’t clean this crap up. Im serious when I say that a lot of pigs who live there are so dirty that they have their living quarters monitored every week or month to see if they are cleaning and keeping black mold from growing.
    The national park employees seem to be very clean and not very chatty with the Xanterra employees, and I understand why.
    Xanterra, you should be ashamed at how you live

  36. K
    K December 17, 2013 at 12:31 pm | | Reply

    Almost forgot to say, i worked there for 2 months in 2011. The job was fine, but could not take the living conditions anymore.

  37. chris
    chris January 14, 2014 at 5:54 am | | Reply

    true article. there is like a black cloud of rudeness at xanterra. the employers are uncaring. when a co worker dies its just another day for them. when i lost my grandma i got nothing from them. i rarely request days off n it was a challenge to do so. but when a foreign calls n and is found dancing at the grocerie store cause he got beer. its ok. my roomate went crazy one day. talking to himself. and he was gone. i ask my manerger aboout him.. ” oh he died.” while her mouth was full eating near the food we serve to costumers. they let the lazy be lazy. and if they know you can work and like work. they will grind you out till you have nothing left. the majority of workers are foreigners. and get the better jobs. american indians seem to get the worst jobs. when you say good morning to your boss you dont get a response. jus a cold blank look if not a scold. i calld n one day cause the roads were about three feet high coverd in snow. but the foreigners have there placed cleaned by the park service and they dont pay taxes. inside bright angel lodge the dishwashing machine is filthy. theres grim all inside the machine. its never cleaned. the boss never cares. i worked there it smells like a dead dog under the machine. i tried to clean it but as i was the only dishwasher for 3 restraunts and one coffe shop. the dishes piled all over even on the floor. everyday i rewash stuff. because theres still food on the supposedly clean dishes. most cooks dnt care n jus use it cause its jus to dam busy. but somehow no matter how filthy it is. it freaken stinks in the kitchen. they always pass there inspection .. no problem. there is a game a group of people play. when you make a mistake. they stick their finger up your butt. a little mexican girl was telling me. ohh this what we play. they made it sound normal. there is a mexican name for the game. 2 restraunts in the park i knw they paly it and the bosses allow it. issues came up when they try to do that to me. i ended up being the bad guy. they mayor of tusayan, az and the human resource told me… ” YOU, have to understand this is how the play.” im glad for this article. so many true responses i read. yeah. most xanterra employees are rude and live horrible. hoarders. asians became my freinds as my fellow americans are very strange and rude.

  38. chris
    chris January 14, 2014 at 8:35 am | | Reply

    i used to walk from trailor village to the grand canyon. and notice lots of trash! even a mattress. i began picking trash with my walks. one day it rained. i still fill my bag then went to work. to find out it was earth day. there was ballons. fringes of paper. buttons. cake canndy. a bunch of trash from desposible cups and dinning wear n opening earth day swag. the enviromental group cancelled earth day…. i ended up cleaning up all that trash…. strangley i was the only one who pick trash on earth day. the next day peoples were all sporting earth day shirts.

  39. Homeless Gal
    Homeless Gal February 14, 2014 at 5:34 pm | | Reply

    Here is an article I just wrote on the same subject:

    Slave Wages – I can’t afford to work for Xanterra in Yellowstone National Park.

    http://homelessgal.blog.com/2014/02/13/slave-wagesi-cant-afford-to-work-for-xanterra-in-yellowstone-national-park/

  40. Terri
    Terri March 27, 2014 at 6:35 pm | | Reply

    It is a shame that in 2014 that this is happening.And it is allowed to happen everyday. Its not an isolated incident. Shame that our absolutely beautiful National Parks would be run in this manner.

  41. Corporate giant Xanterra takes over operations at Glacier National Park | Visit Arizona

    […] cruises and adventure travel outfits. Some employees have nicknamed the company Xanterrible, complaining of low wages and poor living conditions. But more grievous for northwest Montanans is that Xanterra […]

  42. lola lee
    lola lee June 14, 2014 at 4:17 pm | | Reply

    Does anyone know how the fire fighters are treated?

  43. jackson s
    jackson s June 26, 2014 at 1:21 am | | Reply

    I read your article, and i get your complaints. I work at YNP in a pub. I have many of my own complaints, but I have to say, in the three months I’ve been here, I have not met one person that got a paycheck that was in the negative(i heard one guy got $4 pay on his first check because he only started training two days before the pay period ended) and no the pubs are not by far the most profitable establishments in the park. I have done the supply orders, i know what our sales are every night. and when you take into account labor and maintenance and the prices, yes they are staying solvent, but it’s nothing compared the tourist establishments. Also, regardless of which department i ended up in, I still take home more money then i would if i were back in my home state renting an apartment and buying food. Between tips and my above (at least in my home state)Min-wage pay, i get by fine. In all reality, from my understanding many bartenders, servers(cocktail and otherwise) take home more money than the managers. I know one that switched back to serving after several years for that reason. Also employees choose to live in those cabins, they have been very upset about the fact that it’s getting turned back into tourist accommodations. Thirdly, the dorms are… dorms, that’s why they are such close quarters. go to any big, long established college and you’ll find the same thing, some are older, some are newer, some are better than others, but remember these buildings were built almost exclusively under orders from the NPS, Xanterra, Delaware North, Aramark, they just maintain them under their contract with NPS. If in 18 years, Xanterra loses their contract, they don’t get to take the dorms with them. Lastlty, not all of the employees are angels, especially when they drink. At least management can drink without losing control or throwing a fit every time they get carded. Maintenance, Management, and Lowly employees all live, eat, and work right by eachother, so if somethings wrong with anything, make a new friend, and ask if they can do something about it. One more thing, don’t work in the park if you have a major chronic medical condition, the nearest emergency room is usually at least an hour drive or more away, medical releases happen a lot, but if your not making money, then you’re not paying for room or board(which is why i’ve never seen a negative paycheck) it may share a few similarities, but we are a long distance from the coal camps at the turn of the 20th century. The sad truth is that these days some people require the housing and support from their families for a long time. Try locking yourself into a lease, then get sick, then lose your job, and then tell me you’re better off than a park employee who never signed a lease but had the same things happen.

  44. TheScryptKeyper
    TheScryptKeyper June 28, 2014 at 4:53 pm | | Reply

    Oh my gosh. I’m so happy I stumbled across this….17 years old, and wanting to see the world, I thought this would be a great opportunity. My parents, brother and I traveled full-time for four years around the continental US before settling in south Texas, and I’ve got what we like to call the “Hitch Itch” (as we called it, travelling in our 35 ft 5th wheel). I was sure a job in Yellowstone, my favorite place I’ve ever been to, would be amazing…..Extremely disappointed to learn the truth, but glad I found it.

  45. Martaindale
    Martaindale July 13, 2014 at 4:17 pm | | Reply

    I found to be true everything that Xanterra told me– before I took a job– about wages, deductions, housing, hours, job conditions, recreation, transportation, laundry, food, weather, internet, and mail. I put the pencil to it all to see if it was a job that made sense. And it has! This is my second year with Xanterra–I am a retired school teacher. I have gotten strong from work and lost weight, eaten all that I have wanted of good food, gotten great exercise from hiking (177 miles last year, up to 78 so far this year), along with other adults have taken carloads of international students all over to see the sights & hike, made new dear friends, had big fun living in the dorm, read dozens of books (no TV), learned new job skills (bussing & fry cook!!) that I totally had fun with, and got to meet tourists from all over the world. In short, it has been a fabulous experience. I have met many people who have chosen seasonal work as a lifestyle–they keep choosing it because there is so much world to see. And, unless you can afford tourist travel it is a great way to see the world. I have held A LOT of different types of jobs and there is no “perfect” job. They all entail work. People just need to find the work they they want to do at a price they are willing to accept. Know up front what is expected, ask for help when you need it, give help when you are able, protest unfairness to the right people in the right way, and most of all, remember that it is just seasonal work and things change constantly. Seasonal work is NOT for everyone–neither is being a doctor or going camping. And about the international students, I have never heard any say they regret coming to the United States, they know the cost before they come, and the several dozen I have kept up with got to travel after leaving their jobs. As my daddy always said, “Before you do anything involving money, put the pencil to it.”

  46. Jaina
    Jaina July 19, 2014 at 12:18 pm | | Reply

    Also, Xanterra just took over the concessions at Glacier National Park from Glacier Park, Inc, which had the contract for more than 30 years. This is just another example of smaller concessionaires being pushed out by the larger ones. Part of the problem is the shrinking budgets of the National Park Service. More responsibility for caring for the Nation’s Parks are being put on the concessionaires because of federal budget cuts to the Department of the Interior.

  47. Sapaknee
    Sapaknee July 22, 2014 at 10:04 pm | | Reply

    Wow! I had no idea the conditions were this bad! I visited Yellowstone for the first time last summer, and stayed at the Lake Yellowstone Hotel. Being 25 at the time, I was one of the younger guests at the hotel. I spent most of my nights after the hotel bar closed reading in the lobby. I quickly became friends with some of the hotel staff as we were all very close in age. No one seemed to mention anything about the bad living/working conditions when I expressed my interest in working there the following summer. In fact, I even saw the inside of one of the dorms (Osprey) when a staff member and I met up to share some music. They didn’t seem bad. The accommodations were actually were a lot nicer than my college dorm (that’s not saying a lot though). The friends I made were going to sneak me into the employee pub, but it didn’t work since the power went out in that section of the park. Reading this makes me feel disgusted that I contributed to a corporation that treats their employees so poorly. It make me wish I could have done something.

  48. Chris
    Chris August 5, 2014 at 12:21 pm | | Reply

    This is my second season in Yellowstone. There’s a pattern.
    Through opening, the few people who are on location that early get all the work they can handle, even overtime. Once the international workers get here, people typically get 3-day weekends until the college kids leave in mid-August. Then it’s back to two-day weekends and maybe some overtime until closing. At closing, everybody left (there were 7 of us in Housekeeping, out of 40-something, last year) gets plenty of overtime. The trick is obviously to do your hiking mid-season when you have long weekends. Most trails are closed due to snow until mid-June anyway, and close again mid-September when the snow returns. It balances out to plenty of time working and plenty of time to see the park.
    As for low wages, if you’re coming out here to make money, you’re doing it wrong. “It” being both coming out here AND making money. If adventure isn’t your number one reason, just stay home.
    Even with the low income, what you get is what you GET. I make about $300/week. AFTER rent and taxes. Your rent AND food expense is already deducted at a total of $400/month. That’s what many people pay per month just for rent. Food is about $3 per meal-$80 per month-and you can eat as much as you want. Granted, 50% of it is often inedible, but the other 50% is good enough to come back for more. You can have bacon EVERY morning. As much as you want. And you don’t have to cook it yourself.
    Housing isn’t great, it’s true. Someone mentioned black mold above–and yes, I’ve seen it, too. It grows under the toilet tanks because they sweat during Yellowstone’s 3 week summer. And there are mice, and chipmunks, and bats, and they get inside sometimes. So what? The nearest Wal-mart is 100 miles away; you’re in the wilderness. Didn’t you expect that? If you didn’t, what the hell are you doing here?
    I know a lot of people who’ve been fired. Most deserved it. Some did not. Some deserved to get fired and didn’t. How’s that different from anywhere else? Don’t do anything stupid and you won’t get fired. Simple. And remember that Yellowstone is Federal jurisdiction because it existed before the state of Wyoming, and anything you get in trouble for will be on your record FOREVER. That’s a good motivation not to do anything stupid.

    Bottom line: if you didn’t like your first season, don’t come back! And quit trying to ruin it for those of us who love it here.

  49. Corey
    Corey August 9, 2014 at 2:07 pm | | Reply

    Just worked in Yellowstone National Park this summer for Xanterra. I actually managed to get just enough money to get me home and broke my contract early. They had us in an old dorm building with 3 people to a small room, where we were also expected to share 2 toilets and 3 showers to about 50 people. The food was spot on as in the description in the article, watered down slop served on prison like trays. If you managed to eat I doubt you could hold it down for very long. The pub was pretty much the same, packed on pay day then in 4 days nobody would have any money until next payday. Been home over a week and still waiting on my last check to arrive in the mail. Human resources and housing acted like it was normal for people to leave early. People were getting fired left and right for no reason which understaffed us, a friend got fired and was given from 10am until 4pm to vacate the park or he would be arrested. Some people don’t have transportation as the company shuttles them in from the airport or bus stations in surrounding cities. Needless to say, I highly recommend something is done about working conditions in National Parks.

  50. Your Call: What is the economic value of a park?

    […] Blog – Wage Slaves in Our National Parks […]

  51. German
    German August 17, 2014 at 8:29 pm | | Reply

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I truly appreciate your efforts and I am waiting for your next write ups
    thank you once again.

  52. A worker in the Park
    A worker in the Park August 18, 2014 at 3:00 pm | | Reply

    At the beginning I was very happy to work in our YNP national park, I enjoyed everything even work was very hard, I thought I would like to come back for another season because I love nature so much. I also thought the management were OK, I can handle it even they were not very friendly to us.

    BUT I saw the true color of the Xanterra management when I was injured on the job, I couldn’t get up for 2 days, the nurse told me to ask my manager for help, the manager did not help driving me to the hospital (100 miles away), finally I have to drive myself in a rental car to a hospital for emergency, and when I came back tried to talk to a manager, he ignored me by not talking tome for 20 mins in his office, and finally he said what do you want? (in a cold voice), I didn’t want anything, just tried to get more days off even I don’t get paid, he was so cold, never ask me if I was OK or need any help… I did a good thing to quit the job on that day.

    Now I think “Slave” is a right word as the Xanterra management treated us.

  53. zako pane
    zako pane August 18, 2014 at 5:11 pm | | Reply

    Regarding new employee orientation at Xanterra, Yellowstone…Did you receive a safety briefing regarding Park Rules and Regulations by either Xanterra or Yellowstone National Park Rangers? If so what topics were covered?

    Thanks,

    zako

  54. zako pane
    zako pane August 19, 2014 at 7:04 am | | Reply

    I just realized that I was addressing the author of the site. Guess my comment(s) regarding safety briefings by Xanterra should have been addressed to very recent hires. Thanks for the follow-up and I am enjoying reading the stories in all categories on your site. Nice job Michael. May the “force be with you”!

  55. Days gone by
    Days gone by August 21, 2014 at 5:21 pm | | Reply

    This is a very interesting article, I am glad that the Crater Lake park was not mentioned from what I can tell. CL is one of Xanterra’s smaller parks. It is very difficult to please not only visitors but staff as well. I worked in the Maintenance dept year round for about 6 years.
    Housing was always and issue. Back when NPS was buiding the park buildings there were plans for more dorms and an administrative building for the concessionaire which never received funding. There are 3 main dormitories 2 of which were built in 94. These were really decent rooms. The third was much older and is also on the list to be removed. Rim dorm at one point was a large open dorm which was later renovated to provide divided rooms usually 3-4 person per room. One year we replaced the roof because of roof leaks through out the building we installed satellite TV and internet.
    Being in maintenance we spent the off season repairing, repainting and cleaning dorms. Most of the damage came from employees, dancing on pool tables and breaking them, sitting on ping pong table and breaking it. So now you have equipment that cant be used and employees expect it to be replaced. Punching holes in walls because of relationship issues are just a few problems that I have seen. They also restricted how much alcohol you could buy because drunk employees were a problem. Know your limits.

    Food service menus were prepared by the head chefs of the restaurants and typically were very good items. The beginning and end of the seasons were always busy but during the mid season employees usually had time to travel. I don’t really know a whole lot of employees that were not able to take time off if planned correctly.

    Corporate always pushed the limits to better the bottom line, but its the wisdom of the managers to find where that acceptable level was. I never always agreed with the Corporate decisions and we lost some really good mangers and employees because of some decisions to save money. I have seen the same issue with most companies I have worked for “Improve the bottom line” and “Don’t spend Money”.
    Wages could have always been improved even up to the senior managers, but CL barley made profit most years. Which makes it hard to increase wages when the profit margin is very tight. NPS regs are making it harder to find ways to increase profit.

    The GM would occasionally buy employees dinner at the lodge. Employee appreciation dinners were hosted twice a season. Employees at CL were treated fairly. Crater Lake must be on the better end of Xanterra Parks because I haven’t seen good reviews on the other Xanterra Parks.

  56. Rock N Roll
    Rock N Roll August 25, 2014 at 3:07 am | | Reply

    If you don’t feel inclined to give your money back to Xanterra at the employee pub at Yellowstone…….well then, DONT GO DRINKING YOUR MONEY AWAY IDIOT !!!

  57. REDHEADEDRANTER
    REDHEADEDRANTER August 26, 2014 at 5:42 am | | Reply

    The situation in Grand Canyon park is about to become far worse due to a recent concessions decision. Delaware North will be taking over concessions for Yavapai Lodge, Trailer Village, Camper Services and Desert View from Xanterra effective January 1, 2015. This splits the park’s concessions operations in two, and gives Delaware North more than a significant portion of the comapny housing belonging to Xanterra.
    Xanterra employees have been told to expect the worst. National Park Service has prohibited in the new contract the building of additional housing for employees. Small dorm rooms and apartments designed for one or two people will have significantly. Many long term employees will be forced to take lesser housing or make accomodation for additional roommates. Hours may be cut drastically as Xanterra absorbs employees from these work locations into the other lodging locations. (International students are apparently under contract, and they can not lay off those hired, nor can they restrict their hours beyond a certain point, if my understanding is correct.)
    When asked at recent meetings whether or not there was a standard for minimum living space per person, management seemed to believe that they were exempt from these types of rules based on the fact that we are on federal land. (Anotherwords, if you live on federal land, you are nothing but cattle than can be herded!) Apparently, HUD rules and the Keating Memorandum of 1999 do not apply to us. (Federal law sets a standard at two people per bedroom per this memorandum, with the exception of family.)
    I am not sure how to draw attention to this situation as I would like to. I have written several members of Congress, particularly those on concessions oversight, only to be completely ignored. (Funny how eager they were to shut us down and put us out of work last October, but now that we ask for help, deny that we exist.) If anyone has any ideas, this would be greatly appreciated.
    These parks are so beautiful and have so much potential for enjoyment. It is a shame to see both corporate and governmental greed taking away from their enjoyment.

    1. skatee
      skatee October 8, 2014 at 10:13 pm | | Reply

      From someone still on the ‘inside’, you are right on . . . (lol)

  58. duane crump
    duane crump August 28, 2014 at 7:25 pm | | Reply

    Do the tents in Yosemite have electric? For the Hantavirus, I intend to bring a air purifier. Are there medical facilities on the premises for prescription refills. I have to get a physical every three moths and receive medications…if not, what is the closest town to get to? Anyone that works at a national park knows to buy a round trip ticket…I worked at Yellowstone 1995 2000 and 2001 at Old Faithful…I was openly gay and management sometimes would just ignore the comments some of those asshole college students would say me…especially if it was their last day before leaving permanently. I can remember 1995 getting demoted from a server to dishwasher because I said something someone found offensive….outside work and on my personal time. Politics get played, and the longer they been the closer they get during the winter months and they will stab you in the back to protect each other. Just go in and smile do your job and just save your money. Eventually you will get an amount that makes you breath a sigh of relief…as in..( go ahead and fire me…I got money…I don’t care.) Just brown nose with management a little bit at the pub…don’t be afraid to buy a drink to the FB manager..know what I mean..it really is a matter of if they like you as a person. They not only see you at work they see you on your off time to.

  59. Appy
    Appy September 16, 2014 at 9:10 pm | | Reply

    I think every manager, superviser up to the board do directors including the CEOs of such companies need to be outed and made accountable…

  60. Pammy Joy
    Pammy Joy September 25, 2014 at 11:51 am | | Reply

    The only NP I’ve ever lived was Grand Canyon South Rim…I never had issue with housing or pay. I understood that the lifestyle of living on ‘the rim’ trumps ‘city’ living/amenities for many reasons (quiet peaceful living/hiking like a fool!/close knit community/meeting people from all over the world/etc) One random fact of living in a national park? Friends and family you didn’t know you had tend to ‘visit” you often (aka a free place to stay!!;)

    I also understood the consequences if I didn’t perform my expected job duties…..loss of job=loss of housing. A tough reality for some. But that was never kept a secret-everyone knew that was the way of national park living.

    The pay wasn’t terrific-but again, that was one of the trade-offs you make for having complete access to one of the Natural Wonders of the world! (Worth it to me and many other long term employees) you’d be surprised to learn how many employees leave…only to return.

    I was/am proud to have called GC home for 11 years. I love and miss it often)

    My thoughts on people living in a place (national park or otherwise) where they feel ‘unappreciated, underpaid, unhappy with living conditions, blah blah blah':

    MOVE ON! Go make yourself happy. It isn’t your employers duty to ensure your happiness and well-being. You work-they pay you. Nobody is forcing you to stay! GC CAN be a career choice-but it’s more of a lifestyle choice. Enjoy it and recognize it for what it is.

    If you’re considering a summer job in a park….DO IT!! You’ll have the time of your life and meet some friends you’ll have forever. :)

    1. skatee
      skatee October 8, 2014 at 10:47 pm | | Reply

      Tired of these pie-in-the-sky, back-pack wearing, bike riding adults who COULDN’T make it in the real world. Yea, I have loved/visited/hiked the GCNP my whole life too. And, when work was slow back home and I saw an on-line job post for the park, I thought I’d check it out. Well, at the end of my second year here, my EXPERIENCE (and true life stories, names, people I helped out, pictures I have taken) bear out and could prove the horrors of what MOST people say here at this site, contrary to you. This INCLUDES many international student workers (my kids own age) who I helped out, off the clock on my own time, who were scared, confused, disappointed, ect. being exposed to what they were, in contrast what they were shown/told in effort to get them here. You love the GCNP? Well guess what, so do I!! It’s why I tried it out as a job when work was slow back home. Yet, I SOON DISCOVERED: (And THINK about this:) Why not get a GOOD paying job, at a good respected company and then – you could AFFORD to VISIT/VACATION/SUPPORT the GCNP you so much love and even afford to bring your family if you had one!! As do all the tourists with good jobs that you see and serve. Could you afford to do so the same? Why not? Yet your in denial that it has nothing to do with the crappy pay you get, huh? Just on a ‘high’ that you live and work there!

      You rate of pay determines: Where you will live – What you will eat – what kind of car you drive – If and where you take a vacation – what kinds of gifts for holidays / birthdays you can buy loved ones, ect. But ahhhh, who cares about all that right?!! You LIVE at the Grand Canyon and can go hiking. . . .

      Simple ending to this argument I have heard admitted by other professionals/mid-managers and up here confess: “Those who have the Skills/Experience/Schooling/resume to leave here do so, those who don’t, CAN’T.” For the latter, they can then proceed to pretend/deceive themselves however they wish, (and MANY do so here with the supplement of alcohol) telling themselves it’s a ‘choice’, it’s not ‘that bad’, that they ‘love’ the canyon, whatever works. Yea right, if that helps them cope. . . . I came in with a positive attitude and un-biased. I then was in denial myself, I then saw too much of the underbelly and dark side to be able to stomach it and pretend and, refusing to drink or smoke the depression away as MANY do. . .

  61. Keep Your Corporate Hands Off My Federal Land! | Into the Thin Wild Air

    […] requested a weekend off to see family. He suffers from anxiety and was from Cuba. The anecdotes are everywhere. Filthy dormitories that are too crowded. Inflexible or insufficient hours. Very low pay and […]

  62. skatee
    skatee October 8, 2014 at 10:09 pm | | Reply

    This is what I posted on my Facebook page today (10-08-14) for family and friends with a link for this excellent website at the end so people could become educated:

    I am still a current employee for G.C.N.P. South Rim, in what they would call a high paying ‘technical’ position. I was deceived 2 years ago into moving have way across the country, leaving family and friends, via a totally bogus on-line job description and phone interviews. (Being emailed a final job offer to ‘e’ sign, no ‘face-to-face meeting with their HR dept. necessary!!) I have recently begun to aggressively look to ‘escape’ from what could be described as a nightmare commune of misery and desperation, I could write a book. . . .

    Yet what happened at work here today is what caused me to post this on your site. This is what I posted on my Facebook page today (10-08-14) for family and friends with a link for you excellent website at the end so people could become educated:

    Well. . . tho I post beautiful pictures of the Canyon and have visited it many times growing up, and took a job here 2 years ago because I love this National Park, I did NOT know that N.P.S does NOT run all the hotels/restaurants/gift shops/ect. That is done by a “concessioner” who wins a contract bid process that N.P.S. conducts. It is THAT company most everyone who is hired to work here reports to.
    I was called into a management meeting today to learn that Xanterra (current concessioner here and at most National Parks) is actually taking legal action against (suing) the National Park Service (NPS). This is a sad, long ongoing battle between N.P.S. and Xanterra here. NPS for their part wants Xanterra out. Neither wants the other here, it’s been a shotgun wedding from the start. Where do I fall? I’d be called a traitor, but with NPS. It’s the natural canyon I love, that I came out here for, and for who I thought I’d be working for (N.P.S.), not a ‘for profit’ corporation trying to making a buck for itself/share holders. To those who I have had rare time to talk with at length on the phone, they knew my feelings long ago about how I sadly discovered the low pay, high stress and severe under staffing of this company was making it hard to stay. The treatment of foreign exchange students who had NO idea of what they were getting into, is especially disturbing. Though there are many sites you can find to read about what is wrong with the company by searching on the nickname the company has been given by ex-workers, “Xanterrible”, the following link accurately explains what I have seen myself and, has been standard practice for the two years I have been here. It’s sad really. . .

  63. Don
    Don October 18, 2014 at 2:11 pm | | Reply

    I have worked in almost every national park in the United States (as a concessionaire worker) in my lifetime.

    Unfortunately, I can not leave my real full name or e-mail here (I would love to) because of possible repercussions from national park concessionaire upper management that I have worked at in the past and also from the concessionaire I presently work for.

    That being said – I just wanted to add one or two more things to the list above:

    A lot of national park workers are currently using Coolworks.Com now to find a job.

    Be very awre of concessionaires that advertise on Coolworks as being “year around employment”.

    What happens is that the lodge, hotel, or other establishment may actually be open year around, but at the end of the “tourists season” most employees are actually laid off while upper management is left to operate the facility during the off-season.

    You may think you are being going to a park for a permanent position to find yourself sadly unemployed (and homeless) at the end of the season.

    Lastly, someone deserves a medal for writing the above article. There needs to be a LOT more mention of this subject on the internet today – Thank you!

  64. Don
    Don October 18, 2014 at 2:14 pm | | Reply

    I have worked in almost every national park in the United States (as a concessionaire worker) in my lifetime.

    Unfortunately, I can not leave my real full name or e-mail here (I would love to) because of possible repercussions from national park concessionaire’s upper management that I have worked at in the past and also from the concessionaire I presently work for.

    That being said – I just wanted to add one or two more things to the list above:

    A lot of national park workers are currently using Coolworks.Com now to find a job.

    Be very aware of concessionaires that advertise on Coolworks as being “year around employment”.

    What happens is that the lodge, hotel, or other establishment may actually be open year around, but at the end of the “tourists season” most employees are actually laid off, while upper management is left to operate the facility during the off-season.

    You may think you are going to a park for a permanent position, only to find yourself sadly unemployed (and homeless) at the end of the season.

    Lastly, someone deserves a medal for writing the above article. There needs to be a LOT more mention of this subject on the internet today – Thank you!

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