Pitt faculty file for union election


University of Pittsburgh faculty unionizers make an appearance at the People’s Pride parade in June 2018. (Photo by Jon Kunitsky | Staff Photographer)

By Emily Wolfe, Assistant News Editor

University of Pittsburgh faculty filed for a union election with the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board on Friday, with the aim of forming a union that would cover more than 3,000 faculty members across Pitt’s five campuses.

According to a Friday press release from United Steelworkers, which is aiding the unionization effort, the organizing faculty wants more academic freedom and transparency from Pitt’s administration and hopes to address “concerns about pay and job security for adjunct and part-time faculty.”

Since last January, the Pitt Faculty Organizing Committee has collected confidential, signed union cards from full- and part-time faculty. If the University agrees to the terms of the filing, it will provide the PLRB with a list of the card filers, which the Board will use to verify at least 30 percent of eligible faculty and staff have signed cards. The PLRB will then work with both parties to determine a date for a union election.

If an election is held, a majority of Pitt faculty must vote in favor of unionization in order to form a Union of Pitt Faculty. The union would be affiliated with the Academic Workers Association, a division of United Steelworkers.

Joe Miksch, a University spokesman, said in an email the University was aware of the filing.

“While we review the petition, we strongly encourage faculty members to thoroughly discuss the unionization process and share accurate information about the pros and cons involved,” Miksch said. “The University, for its part, will remain dedicated to supporting our faculty members and their diverse interests regardless of how this issue evolves.”

The move comes more than a year after Pitt’s grad students filed their own petition with the state labor board in December 2017. Pitt disputed the petition, arguing that graduate students are not employees, and negotiations are ongoing.

[Read: Graduate students make their case for unionization]

Pitt faculty have attempted to unionize before, most recently in 1996, when organizers were unable to gather cards from a majority of faculty members. Although more than 30 percent of faculty signed cards, the organizers — then called “United Faculty” — suspended the campaign because they were not confident they would win a majority vote.

Previously, in 1976, the first attempt at unionization failed when faculty voted against it in a union vote, 1,243-719.