Pitt faculty union, administration dispute bargaining unit size


TPN File Photo

Pitt Faculty Union flyers on campus table.

By Jack Troy, Senior Staff Writer

Nearly two months into contract negotiations between faculty union representatives and University officials, the union claims that Pitt seeks to unlawfully disqualify 600 members while failing to substantively engage in the bargaining process. 

“It is difficult to imagine a charitable interpretation of this behavior,” the union’s bargaining committee wrote in a May 12 letter to colleagues. 

The union’s outcry follows the fifth session of what will likely be a more than yearlong bargaining process. Administration has put forth only one written proposal, the union said, compared to 11 from the bargaining committee on issues ranging from health and safety to academic freedom and faculty governance.

A Pitt spokesperson told the University Times that officials want to “clarify” the size of the bargaining unit before forging ahead with negotiations and their lone proposal lacks the “intent or effect of excluding 600 faculty members from the unit.” 

“As the University explained to the union bargaining committee, the intent of the proposal was to clarify which positions are specifically covered by the [Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board] certification language and related order, which are at times ambiguous or contradictory,” the Pitt spokesperson said. 

Any changes to the unit must first be approved by the PLRB, which certified the union’s landslide victory in October. It’s unclear which faculty positions are in dispute. 

The bargaining unit’s size was a frequent sticking point between union organizers and the University leading up to the election. The University submitted an eligibility list with more than 4,000 members three years ago that nearly nixed the union drive altogether. A Pitt News investigation found that the list included hundreds of administrators and departed faculty, and a PLRB hearing examiner later trimmed the list by nearly 400 names, allowing organizers to cross the 30% support threshold to trigger an election. 

The parties engaged in further disputes pre-election over incorporating the School of Medicine in the bargaining unit, but the PLRB ultimately decided to exclude medical school faculty. 

Even with their contentious history over the size of the bargaining unit, the University said it remains committed to “good faith” negotiations, and the union emphasized a “constructive” approach in their letter. 

“We will continue to offer responsible, lawful, evidence-based proposals, and to give the administration every opportunity to engage with this process,” the letter said. “We will continue to stand together against any attempts to divide us.”