The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

Join our newsletter

Get Pitt and Oakland news in your inbox, three times a week.

Pamela Smith, managing editor.
Column | In the blink of an eye, in the click of a shutter
By Pamela Smith, Managing Editor • April 20, 2024
Fresh Perspective | Final Farewell
By Julia Smeltzer, Digital Manager • April 19, 2024

Join our newsletter

Get Pitt and Oakland news in your inbox, three times a week.

Pamela Smith, managing editor.
Column | In the blink of an eye, in the click of a shutter
By Pamela Smith, Managing Editor • April 20, 2024
Fresh Perspective | Final Farewell
By Julia Smeltzer, Digital Manager • April 19, 2024

Pitt staff files unfair labor practice charge over alleged mandatory meetings with anti-union messaging

The+Cathedral+of+Learning+and+Litchfield+Towers.
TPN File Photo
The Cathedral of Learning and Litchfield Towers.

Pitt held captive audience meetings where staff were told to report organizing activity and spread an anti-union message, the United Steelworkers alleged in a June 28 unfair labor practice charge. 

The USW goes on to say in its filing with the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board that these mandatory Zoom meetings ran from mid-April through May and included rank-and-file employees who the University misclassified as managers. 

“Rather than wasting time and resources attempting to keep workers from exercising their rights, the Pitt administration should welcome the opportunity for workers to make their own choice,” USW District 10 Director Bernie Hall said in a press release. 

University Spokesperson Jared Stonesifer said Pitt has received the charge and is in the process of reviewing it. 

Kaitlyn Wittig Menguc, a standardized patient scheduling specialist in the School of Medicine and member of the staff union organizing committee, said these meetings have “poisoned the well” by sowing misinformation among her colleagues. 

“There’s this general feeling of fear that we can’t talk about this,” Wittig Menguc said. 

Under Pennsylvania’s Public Employee Relations Act, public sector employers cannot interfere with workers’ rights to form a union. 

Organizers submitted signed union cards from at least 30% of the proposed bargaining unit on June 5, crossing the threshold to trigger a vote. The date and exact size of the bargaining unit will be determined by the PLRB in the coming months. 

If successful, thousands of advisers, researchers and other staff members would be represented by the USW in collective bargaining, joining roughly 3,000 faculty members who voted to join the USW in October 2021. Faculty have been in slow-moving talks with Pitt administration for a first contract since February 2022. 

Pitt has faced unfair labor practice charges from the USW in recent years related to faculty, graduate student and now staff unionization efforts. 

In March 2022, the USW filed a charge on behalf of the faculty union over unilateral changes to the University’s masking policy, before later reaching an agreement with administration that resolved the charges and created a process for faculty to seek additional virus mitigation measures in their classrooms. 

Furthermore, the PLRB found that Pitt had committed “coercive acts” leading up to an April 2019 election to determine whether graduate student workers would join the USW, though the hearing examiner did not order a new election. 

Wittig Menguc is looking beyond this early conflict with administration to the chance for a fresh start with incoming chancellor Joan Gabel, who’s set to take the reins from Patrick Gallagher in this month. 

“It’s really easy to focus on what’s not working. I think it’s also important that we remain positive and optimistic,” Wittig Menguc said. “I look forward to the new chancellor coming in and hope that there is a new opportunity here to work together.”

Editor’s note: This article was updated to include Kaitlyn Wittig Menguc’s correct job title. The Pitt News regrets this error.

About the Contributor
Jack Troy, Senior Staff Writer
Jack Troy is a Senior Staff Writer at The Pitt News. A native of Western Pennsylvania, he will graduate in April 2024 with a major in Political Science and a minor in Economics. He worked as a columnist and editor on the opinions desk from January to December 2021, and now writes for the news desk. You can contact him at [email protected]