Election dates announced for faculty union vote


University of Pittsburgh faculty will be able to decide if they want to form a union in an election scheduled for Aug. 27 to Oct. 12.

The Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (PLRB) issued the order today, announcing about 3,000 eligible voters will be sent a letter on Aug. 27 containing an official ballot, instruction sheet, a self-addressed envelope and a blank ballot envelope. 

Pitt faculty will decide if they want to form a union represented by the United Steelworkers (USW). They will have to return their ballots to the PLRB’s Harrisburg office by Oct. 12. The votes will be counted there, starting on Oct. 19 at 10 a.m. and ending on Oct. 21 if necessary, according to the order.

This announcement follows a multi-year legal dispute between the University’s legal representatives, the Philadelphia-based law firm Ballard Spahr, and the United Steelworkers over the size of the proposed bargaining unit.

The PLRB most recently ordered the University on April 16 to submit a list of employees eligible to participate in a union vote. The order also defined the job positions eligible to vote and ruled that the School of Medicine can form a separate bargaining unit and vote separately.

The Steelworkers have repeatedly criticized the University for using “union-busting” tactics, including “padding” the list of employees in the proposed bargaining unit with people who are ineligible to vote. Pitt has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing during the unionization effort.

A University spokesman said in a statement that faculty will decide the outcome of the election.

“As anticipated, this afternoon the University of Pittsburgh received notification of the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board’s order for a faculty union election….” The spokesman said in an emailed statement. “The University has always been clear that the question of faculty unionization is a faculty decision, and we will continue to keep all community members updated about the process.”

Tyler Bickford, a faculty union advocate and associate professor in the English department, said in a USW statement that he’s glad the faculty will have a chance to vote after a lengthy legal dispute.

“It’s been a long road, but I am thankful that we will finally have the chance to make our voices heard,” Bickford said in a USW statement. “A vote for a union is a vote to create a better university. Gaining a voice will provide faculty members with greater job security, improve educational outcomes, promote better research and increase transparency across the university system. It’s a win-win.”

Donovan Harrell is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at dharrell@pitt.edu or 412-383-9905.


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