USW Applauds PLRB Ruling in Favor of Pitt Grad Union

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

The United Steelworkers (USW) applauded today’s ruling from the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (PLRB) affirming University of Pittsburgh graduate student employees’ right to join a union.

The PLRB found that the approximately 2,000 teaching assistants, teaching fellows, graduate assistants and graduate student researchers are university employees, entitled to seek union representation.

“Pitt’s grad students work hard as teachers and as researchers, providing valuable services to the university,” said USW International President Leo W. Gerard. “They are absolutely employees and deserve a seat at the table.”

Pitt grad employees filed for a union election in December 2017, seeking greater transparency in the decision-making process that affects their working conditions, as well as protections against discrimination and harassment.

“We need a union because we deserve to participate in the decision-making process that affects us and our jobs,” said Hillary Lazar, a graduate employee in the department of sociology. “From bargaining over issues like health care for our families to instituting safeguards against harassment, a union helps ensure we have the same rights as any other group of workers.”

The university administration filed an objection to the grad students’ petition last winter, claiming the graduate workers were students, not employees of the university. The PLRB held a hearing in October and issued its ruling March 7, holding that graduate workers are employees.

“It’s disappointing that the university administration chose to draw out this process,” said Abby Cartus, a graduate student employee in the epidemiology department. “Hiring high-profile, union-busting lawyers at Ballard Spahr in an attempt to intimidate graduate students was a waste of tuition and tax dollars. We hope moving forward they act in better faith.”

University of Pittsburgh faculty filed a petition with the PLRB in January for their own union election.

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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Communications Director:
Jess Kamm at 412-562-2446

USW@WORK (USW magazine)
Editor R.J. Hufnagel

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Call USW Communications at 412-562-2442

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Pittsburgh, PA 15222