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

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First-year guard Aaryn Battle (1) dribbles the ball during Thursday evening’s game against Wake Forest in the Petersen Events Center.
Pitt women’s basketball falls back into their old habits, fall to Wake Forest 65-50
By Sara Meyer, Staff Writer • February 23, 2024

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First-year guard Aaryn Battle (1) dribbles the ball during Thursday evening’s game against Wake Forest in the Petersen Events Center.
Pitt women’s basketball falls back into their old habits, fall to Wake Forest 65-50
By Sara Meyer, Staff Writer • February 23, 2024

‘We deserve to have a voice’: Pitt graduate workers assemble inside the Cathedral of Learning to demand recognition of their union

Graduate+workers+assemble+to+protest+in+Schenley+Plaza+on+Oct.+2%2C+2023.
TPN File Photo
Graduate workers assemble to protest in Schenley Plaza on Oct. 2, 2023.

More than 200 graduate workers at Pitt assembled on the first floor of the Cathedral of Learning at 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday to demand Pitt Chancellor Joan Gabel recognize their union. 

The Pitt graduate workers, who have shown interest in unionization since October 2023, said they aimed to deliver a letter to the chancellor’s office outlining their demands for voluntary recognition of their move to unionize and join the United Steelworkers. 

The USW defines “voluntary recognition” as “the employer accept[ing] the signed authorization cards as proof of workers’ desire to unionize rather than forcing them to also go through a lengthy election process.”

USW released a news advisory on Jan. 29 concerning the Pitt grad workers’ intentions for the assembly. The advisory stated many of the graduate workers earn less than $25,000 per year. 

“[Grad workers] are seeking to join the United Steelworkers (USW) in order to gain a voice on the job around crucial issues like the recent spikes in their health care costs, as well as other concerns including family leave and sick leave policies and stronger enforcement of anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies,” USW said in the advisory.

The statement also specified that if Gabel does not recognize the union at the assembly, the group plans to file for an election through the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board on Wednesday. 

Alison Mahoney, a doctoral student with Pitt’s theater and arts department and speaker at the protest, has been a member of the Pitt graduate workers’ unionization effort for three years. Mahoney said she is proud of the solidarity the graduate workers showed with their assembly. 

“We are educators and researchers that make this university run, and we deserve to have a voice in our working conditions,” Mahoney said. 

Mahoney said they visited Gabel’s office to ask for voluntary recognition so they could avoid the union election process through the PLRB. However, Gabel was not in her office at the time. 

Shortly after the protest, Gabel released a response to the unionizers and The Pitt News in which she expressed her appreciation to the graduate students at Pitt for their contribution to the University. 

“I also want you to know that I respect your agency and self-determination to undertake this effort and look forward to continuing our important engagement in the days ahead,” Gabel said in the letter. 

However, Gabel did not acknowledge the demands made by the graduate workers or their intent to unionize. 

“Unfortunately, the chancellor does not plan to voluntarily recognize our decision to unionize, so we will file our cards with the state labor board tomorrow morning to initiate the union election process,” Mahoney said. 

USW said the election process will represent 2,100 graduate workers, the majority of whom have indicated support for unionization, according to Mahoney. Mahoney added that although the group is disappointed by Gabel’s response, they are not surprised. 

“We hoped the chancellor would respect our decision today, but we are excited for a union election and look forward to bargaining for a strong union contract when we win,” Mahoney said. 


About the Contributor
Abby Lipold, Assistant News Editor
Abby Lipold is the Assistant News Editor for the News Desk. She is an English Nonfiction Writing major and is pursuing a BPhil in International and Area Studies. She has been writing for The Pitt News since January 2022. You can contact Abby at [email protected].