Faculty union organizers up in arms after Pitt’s administration rejects Labor Board subpoena


TPN file photo

Faculty union organizers challenged hundreds of the names Pitt included in its list of faculty eligible for a bargaining unit.

By Neena Hagen, Senior Staff Writer

After ruling June 18 that the size of the bargaining unit for Pitt’s faculty union was under review, the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board ordered Pitt to turn over several pieces of information to faculty union organizers — most notably, a list of faculty eligible to be in the potential bargaining unit.

But Pitt filed a motion Wednesday attempting to rescind the order. University spokesperson Joe Miksch said union organizers “seek thousands of pages of personal information about more than 4,000 faculty members, including payroll data, assignments and disability information” that Pitt does not want to provide.

“The Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board determined that the United Steelworkers must prove that the University of Pittsburgh’s list of names contains factual or legal inaccuracies … This sweeping subpoena attempts to shift responsibility onto Pitt to prove that the list is accurate,” Miksch said. “We disagree with this tactic and look forward to following the PLRB process to resolve this matter.”

If the motion is successful, the administration could avoid supplying nearly all requested information, according to a Friday morning press release from United Steelworkers, the union aiding the organizing effort.

Organizers called the motion a stalling strategy — a blatant attempt to conceal that Pitt deliberately inflated the number of faculty in the bargaining unit to avoid a union election.

“Given the depths to which Chancellor Gallagher has already sunk in order to thwart our efforts to form a union on campus, it’s unsurprising that the administration is pursuing this course of action,” William Scott, an associate professor in the English department, said. “It’s clear that he knows a majority of faculty want a union and is willing to do anything to keep us from voting.”

[Read: Faculty braces for Pitt’s union “stalling tactics”]

Organizers have spent the last month combing through the list of faculty eligible for the bargaining unit, sent by the PLRB after the board’s June 18 ruling. Preliminary analysis by union organizers indicates that there are several hundred people on the list that do not belong in the bargaining unit, including administrators, graduate students, undergraduate students, retired faculty and even some deceased faculty. According to the press release, Pitt providing all of the information requested would confirm these findings, and organizers won’t release a detailed analysis until they receive those documents from the University.

The PLRB initially scheduled hearings from July 24 to August 2 for faculty and administrators to hash out disagreements about the size of the bargaining unit. But since Pitt officials challenged the subpoena, the hearings may be pushed back, according to Tyler McAndrew, a union organizer and visiting English lecturer.

Melinda Ciccocioppo, a psychology lecturer, decried Pitt’s refusal to provide all of the requested documents and said it emphasizes a lack of transparency between faculty and administrators.

“One of the primary reasons Pitt faculty want a union is because we need more transparency on campus,” Ciccocioppo said. “This latest in a string of attacks on our right to vote further illustrates this problem.”

Pitt faculty filed for a union election in January, citing dissatisfaction with pay, job security and transparency from the administration. Organizers want more faculty to have a seat at the table when making important decisions.

[Read: Pitt faculty see future in union]

McAndrew said organizers are still targeting spring 2020 for a union election.

Contributed reporting by Jon Moss.