Faculty union protests, police intervene before Board of Trustees meeting


Ethan Shulman | Staff Photographer

Supporters of the faculty union gather outside of the William Pitt Union Friday morning.

By Jack Troy, Senior Staff Writer

About 100 faculty union members gathered outside of the William Pitt Union Assembly Room before Friday’s Board of Trustees meeting to protest a lack of progress on compensation negotiations with administration.

Before the meeting began, Pitt Police ordered the protestors to move outside and threatened to arrest those who refused to leave. Protestors complied, leaving the building.  

“You’ll be the first one,” one officer told Bargaining Committee Chair Tyler Bickford, who led the faculty members in chants and songs. 

After the meeting, Chancellor Patrick Gallagher told The Pitt News that he didn’t see the protest, but acknowledged that public demonstrations are “part of being on an American University campus.”

“Protest is part of our freedom of expression. Protest is also about doing it in a way that respects the fact that there’s other users of facilities and other things ongoing,” Gallagher said. 

Several union leaders also spoke to the crowd, including Melinda Ciccocioppo, the chair of the communications and action team. 

“We are asking for professional wages, we are asking for equal pay for equal work and we are asking for cost-of-living adjustments that keep space with inflation so we’re not taking a pay cut every year,” Ciccocioppo said.

The union first proposed a compensation structure in November with a $60,000 minimum salary and yearly “experience increases” of $5,000 for full-time faculty. Part-timers would benefit from these changes proportional to their workload, and all faculty members would see annual cost-of-living adjustments. Pitt has yet to offer a counterproposal on compensation, but has posted their other proposals online on contract renewals, faculty evaluations and academic freedom. 

“We’re all interested in making progress,” Gallagher said. “I certainly don’t agree that the administration is stonewalling in any way.”

U.S. House Representative Chris Deluzio and State Senator Jay Costa, a member of the Board of Trustees, offered words of support to the faculty members at the rally. 

“I’m with you, I’m thinking about you. You deserve a contract and the decent, basic benefits and pay that every worker in this country deserves,” Deluzio said. “I know you’ll get through this.”

Deluzio served on the union’s organizing committee during his time at Pitt Cyber before being elected to Congress in November. 

The union staged a similar rally in December outside of Provost Ann Cudd’s office to demand progress on job security negotiations. Administration presented a counterproposal on the topic at the following bargaining session. 

Sabrina Robinson, a member of the bargaining committee, said she made $28,000 last year as an adjunct professor. Robinson has taught at the University for 14 years, often taking on the maximum number of courses allowed for adjuncts. 

Robinson believes that many students and faculty would be “shocked” to learn the amount that some faculty members are paid. 

“It’s not enough money for what I do. It’s not enough money considering that I’m required to have advanced degrees,” Robinson said.