The faculty of the University of Pittsburgh have voted to unionize, and all professors and librarians across the school’s five campuses will now be protected by a bargaining unit affiliated with United Steelworkers.
Inside Higher Ed reports that, upon certification, the new union will be the largest formed in higher education in the last ten years. The measure will affect more than 3,300 faculty members across all of Pitt’s schools and campuses, aside from the School of Medicine. The ballots were counted on Tuesday (October 19), and the ayes overwhelmingly had it: 1511 to 612.
Advocates of the union have cited myriad reasons for wanting collective bargaining power, from desiring salary transparency and better health insurance to frustration with pandemic-related budget changes.
“I support the staff union because, in my 20 years at Pitt, I’ve seen the futility of trying to advocate as an individual voice,” Aaron Graham, an open lab manager at Pitt, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in September.
Tuesday’s vote was six years in the making. In 2015, organizers began talking to faculty to gauge the level of interest and better understand the wants and needs of various personnel.
“I hope this will lead to us sitting down and really being able to find some common ground and creative solutions for the problems that we see facing this institution,” Pitt psychology lecturer Melinda Ciccocioppo tells Inside Higher Ed. “That’s really what we’ve been fighting for this whole time.”
According to a post on the Union of Pitt Faculty Facebook page, assembling the faculty’s bargaining committee is the next step. “We will consult with all of our colleagues—regardless of how they voted—to identify the whole faculty’s priorities in those negotiations,” the post reads, citing the desire for a diverse committee.
While the faculty’s unionization effort has prevailed, earlier this month, graduate students at Pitt learned that the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board has rejected their request for a new vote for unionization after their 2019 vote fell short by only 39 ballots. The students alleged that actions of university staff during the four-day-long vote interfered with fair ballot casting, but the board concluded that only six students’ votes would have been affected and thus upheld the overall results. The Post-Gazette reports that the students plan to appeal the decision.