Grad union organizers hold demonstration on sky bridge


Joy Cao | Staff Photographer

Grad union organizers hold signs against the windows of the Forbes Avenue sky bridge on Wednesday afternoon.

By Benjamin Nigrosh, Staff Writer

Grad union organizers pressed paper letters against the windows of the Forbes Avenue sky bridge, spelling out the words “H2P Grad Union” on Wednesday afternoon in a demonstration to raise awareness for their campaign to establish a graduate student union.

According to Ben Case, a sociology graduate student, the more than 20 students campaigning for the grad union wanted to make their message heard without disrupting the campus.

“Our issue is not with the University students,” Case said. “We don’t want to obstruct anybody from taking any finals or who have things to take care of at the end of the semester. We want to support our students who have supported fellow grads and other faculty doing research.”

The unionization effort kicked off in 2016, promising higher wages, increased benefits, greater transparency and increased protections against discrimination and harassment. This culminated in an April election in which Pitt grad students voted 712-675 against forming a union. After union organizers appealed the election results, a representative from the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board issued a proposed ruling in mid-September ordering a new election and declaring that Pitt commited three unfair labor practices.

But Pitt filed an exception to the proposed ruling at the beginning of October, disappointing organizers who hoped to hold the second election this semester. The full PLRB is now reviewing the case to make a final determination.

Alnica Visser, a philosophy graduate student, said the demonstration is one of several ways that union organizers are attempting to keep fellow grad students engaged while waiting for a ruling from the PLRB.

“One of the things that we are trying to do at the moment, because we’re waiting for the PLRB to review the administration’s appeal, is just keep visibility up and keep people engaged,” Visser said.

According to Sinan Dogan, an anthropology grad student, the demonstrators wanted to draw attention to their own movement and empower other organizations to do the same.

“What we are trying to do is to draw the attention not only from eligible voters — which we are trying everyday to do — but students and staff who are unionized or not unionized, or faculty who are trying to unionize right now,” Dogan said. “As well as other folks, other graduate students in other universities.”