PLRB Rules In Favor Of Pitt Grad Union

For years, graduate workers at the University of Pittsburgh have been fighting for the right to join a union. 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 Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board recently issued their decision in the case following last year’s hearing. The PLRB has determined that graduate workers are employees.

Please see the following from a statement issued by the United Steelworkers:

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.”

“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.