Faculty union organizers earn second chance to prompt union election


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The Pitt faculty union organizers will have another chance to prove interest in a union election in four months.

By Neena Hagen, Senior Staff Writer

After a round of hearings this week meant to finalize the size of Pitt’s faculty union bargaining unit, organizers will get another chance to prove they have enough interest to prompt a union election — in four months.

The PLRB hearing examiner plans to rule on the final size of the bargaining unit in March, which could number anywhere between 3,500 and 3,800 individuals. Pitt initially submitted a list of 4,018 union-eligible faculty to the PLRB last March. Union organizers needed a 30% “showing of interest” from faculty on that list to prompt a union election, but the PLRB ruled in April that organizers fell short in their efforts to collect enough signed authorization cards.

Union organizers swiftly filed an appeal to that ruling, and since then, the University has rolled back some of its inclusions on the eligibility list.

Pitt sent a letter to union organizers on Oct. 31 agreeing to remove 89 former faculty it claims were mistakenly included on the list — none of those 89 have taught a class in the past year. Pitt also agreed at Monday’s hearings that 152 administrators that were originally included don’t belong on the list, though the University claims it always wanted to exclude administrators.

University spokesman Kevin Zwick said the hearings showed that Pitt “used a reasonable method to develop the showing-of-interest list.”

“The hearings also revealed the University’s good faith attempt on Nov. 1 to adjust the list due to a small number of individuals who were either included or excluded in error,” Zwick said in a Thursday email.

Pitt’s agreement to exclude administrators and former faculty has whittled the bargaining unit down to 3,800 at most. Depending on how the hearing examiner determines the eligibility of program directors, part-time faculty and a few other classes of faculty, the showing-of-interest list could come down to about 3,500 individuals, which organizers originally estimated as the size of the bargaining unit.

Union organizer Robin Sowards said the list of outstanding individuals could range from 129 to 230 people.

Sowards and many other organizers declined to say how many authorization cards were signed, but in January, when organizers estimated the size of the bargaining unit to be 3,500, they said they felt confident about their chances to prompt a union election.

The PLRB declined to comment on the likely size of the bargaining unit, saying it doesn’t comment on pending cases.

Sowards says he still has “no idea” when faculty will be able to hold an election.