Faculty union effort headed for PLRB hearing over size of bargaining unit


A hearing to determine the appropriate size of the bargaining unit of the proposed Pitt faculty union has been ordered by the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board.

The decision, sent on June 18, comes after the PLRB in April denied a hearing for the union’s original petition, saying it did not gather the required 30 percent of signed cards from the proposed bargaining unit.

In response, the union filed a six-page appeal, or exceptions, on April 25. The PLRB decided the exceptions warranted further review.

“After a thorough review of the exceptions and all matters of record, the Petitioner’s exceptions raise factual issues requiring the conduct of a hearing limited solely to the accuracy of the employer’s list of employees,” the decision read.

Pitt and the union’s legal representatives, the United Steelworkers, have debated the appropriate size of the bargaining unit for months. The union submitted its petition in January with a proposed bargaining unit of about 3,500 faculty.

The union has not disclosed the exact number of cards turned into the PLRB in January, but they were confident there was a significant “cushion” of cards. Pitt also has not publicly disclosed the number of employees in its proposed bargaining unit.

The union claimed Pitt provided the PLRB with a “deliberately inflated” number of employees in its proposed bargaining unit. Pitt representatives have repeatedly denied these claims, saying they worked with a “similar number” to the USW’s proposed bargaining unit.

University spokesman Joe Miksch said the University was not surprised by this new ruling.

“We anticipated a hearing, and we look forward to getting clarity on the proper scope of the bargaining unit,” Miksch said in an emailed statement.

In a USW news release, the union praised the PLRB’s new ruling, claiming it validated their appeal.

“This decision is not surprising,” said Tyler McAndrew, a visiting lecturer in the English department. “Deliberately inflating the number of people in a potential bargaining unit is a common union avoidance tactic. It’s important that this list sees the light of day, so that Pitt faculty are able to exercise their right to vote on unionization without outside interference.”

As part of the decision, Pitt also will have to give the USW the list of employees it submitted to the PLRB so the two groups can compare bargaining unit sizes.

An exact date for the hearing has not been set yet, but USW representatives expect it to happen sometime in mid- to late July.

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