University of Pittsburgh Faculty File for Union Election

CONTACT: Jess Kamm Broomell, (412) 562-2446,

Faculty at the University of Pittsburgh on Friday filed for a union election with the state labor board. They are seeking a collective bargaining agreement that would cover approximately 3,500 full- and part-time faculty across Pitt’s five campuses.

“The work these faculty do as researchers and educators is what makes Pitt a world-class institution,” said USW International President Leo W. Gerard. “They deserve a seat at the table and a voice in deciding how the university is run.”

Pitt faculty began collecting confidential union cards in January 2018. Their goals include addressing concerns about pay and job security for adjunct and part-time faculty. They also would like to see more academic freedom and greater transparency from the university administration.

“Specific faculty needs differ so much by department and rank,” said Tyler McAndrew, a visiting lecturer in the department of English and member of the Pitt faculty organizing committee. “But even for people on the tenure track, transparency is so important: with regard to tenure requirements, how everyday decisions are made at the university, and who’s deciding to put what money where and why.” 

“All this stuff ripples out to the students whether they realize it or not,” said McAndrew. “A union is not just good for us, but will be a positive thing for the students and the university as a whole because our interests are with the students.”

Pitt faculty also hope that the union will be a democratizing force on campus, breaking down silos and opening more conversations about how to make the whole university better.

“We’re organizing in the spirit of recognizing the intellectual labor all of us do,” said Mrinalini Rajagopalan, associate professor in the department of history of art and architecture. “A union is a way to bring back a level of dignity to scholarly work and teaching that we’re not seeing.It’s also about preserving what’s working, what’s viable and sustainable and humane in our university atmosphere.”

Faculty organizers delivered union cards to the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (PLRB) in Harrisburg, Pa., this afternoon.

Graduate students at Pitt filed for their own union election in December 2017. The university administration objected, and the legal process is ongoing.

The Academic Workers Association is part of the USW, which represents 850,000 workers in North America employed in many industries that include metals, rubber, chemicals, paper, oil, the service and public sectors and higher education.

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