Graduate, CGS student leaders release statement supporting faculty unionization

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Pitt’s Graduate & Professional Student Government and College of General Studies Student Government released a statement Wednesday in support of Pitt faculty unionization.

By Millicent Watt, Assistant News Editor

Pitt’s Graduate & Professional Student Government and College of General Studies Student Government released a statement Wednesday in support of Pitt faculty unionization.

The statement argued that over the past 18 months, faculty members had to adjust to remote, hybrid and in-person learning with “little to no notice and with little voice in these decisions,” and with little support or compensation from the University for their time and energy.

The University is currently in the midst of a multiyear effort to unionize more than 3,000 University faculty members. Pitt faculty from all campuses have an opportunity to vote for or against unionization in the election until Oct. 12.

The statement received endorsements from the Film Studies Graduate Student Organization, Free the Planet, French & Italian Department GSO, Student Government Association of the Graduate School of Public Health and Un-PAC Pitt. It also had 106 personal endorsements, including members from the undergraduate Student Government Board.

Ryan Yeager, CGSSG president, urged SGB to sign onto the statement at the board’s Tuesday evening public meeting. SGB members ultimately voted against signing onto the statement in a 3-4 vote, with one abstention.

The statement noted that as part of Pitt’s budget this year, faculty and staff received an average pay raise of 1.25%, while health care premiums went up by 3%. The statement said that by comparison, the consumer price index — one measure of inflation — increased by 5.4% in the 12-month period ending in July 2021.

The statement criticized Pitt’s payments of roughly $2 million to “union avoidance” law firm Ballard Spahr, which the University said is to provide legal support, as a “gross waste of University funds.”

“This callus act was a gross waste of University funds and seems especially foolish given the current financial stress the University says it is facing,” the statement said. “We urge University officials to allow the faculty unionization campaign to play out unobstructed so that the voice of the Pitt community may be heard.”

A University spokesperson said “the University has taken no position on how faculty should vote, but urges all who are eligible to participate to do so.”

The statement said a union will “empower” Pitt faculty to have the proper support and resources for their work, which will benefit the Pitt community and beyond.

“To the benefit of students, Faculty will be able to leverage their collective skills and experiences to help Pitt create more effective, and more globally competitive undergraduate and graduate programs,” the statement said.

The statement then urged faculty members to vote “yes” and for University officials to remain out of the election.

“Because the working conditions of University of Pittsburgh faculty are the learning conditions of University of Pittsburgh undergraduate and graduate students, we urge Pitt Faculty to vote ‘yes’ to unionization, and we urge our University officials to not interfere in this election,” the statement said.

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