Faculty union members demonstrate outside of Provost Cudd’s office, push for job security

By Jack Troy, Senior Staff Writer

Dozens of union faculty gathered outside of the Provost’s office Wednesday morning in an effort to advance stagnant job security talks ahead of a Dec. 14 bargaining session. 

This marks the union’s second protest over slow negotiations. Around 150 faculty members gathered in Posvar Hall on Oct. 27 during a bargaining session in the building, hoping to spur progress on job security proposals. 

Provost Ann Cudd declined to meet in-person with demonstrators on the 8th floor of the Cathedral of Learning on Wednesday, but allowed them into her virtual office hours after nearly half an hour. 

“If she’s still letting us languish in the waiting room, maybe we should make some noise and let her know we’re here,” Melinda Ciccocioppo, union communications chair, said to the waiting crowd. 

While waiting to meet with Cudd, the union chanted and sang “Solidarity Forever”, a popular labor anthem dating back to 1915.

Job security has become a major sticking point in negotiations. The union first proposed automatic contract renewals for appointment-stream faculty in July, but claims that Pitt still hasn’t substantively engaged on the topic. 

Before several faculty members read prewritten statements addressing their concerns over Zoom, Cudd noted that she’s unable to comment on the collective bargaining process. National labor law prohibits employers from discussing mandatory bargaining topics such as pay, hours and working conditions directly with workers. 

“This is not what we prefer, but it is what the union has told us. I can sit back and listen but I can’t discuss,” Cudd said. 

The union has publicly pushed for automatic contract renewals as part of its “Job Security = Emotional Well Being” campaign, a reference to Cudd declaring the 2022-2023 academic year the “Year of Emotional Well-Being.”

Ellen Lee, a lecturer in the classics department, said she had to reapply for her job last year, despite positive performance evaluations and a demand for her teaching subjects.

“The uncertainty about the future of my employment wasn’t just stressful for me and my family though, it had created problems for my students and for curriculum development in my department. My working conditions are student learning conditions,” Lee said to union applause. 

Cudd ended the Zoom meeting shortly after, declining to answer whether Pitt would present a job security counterproposal in the upcoming bargaining session. The Provost’s Office posted a statement online before the demonstration began without indicating any specific plans for the Dec. 14 bargaining session. 

The administration and bargaining unit currently meet once a month, a pace that’s frustrating some members of the union bargaining team, such as Paul Scott. 

“It’s basically just very slow going and we’re not getting any kind of feedback,” Scott said.