Faculty union getting to work to develop policies


Pitt’s faculty union is starting to seriously consider the issues it wants to bring to the bargaining table.

The union has a Council of Representatives with 77 positions designed to represent faculty across ranks, schools, locations and full- and part-time status, said Melinda Ciccocioppo, a lecturer in the psychology department who chairs the union’s communication and action team. Currently, 64 of those positions are filled.

“We understand that faculty from different schools and different campuses have different experiences,” Ciccocioppo said. “But there’s also a lot of issues that unite us — like pay and transparency.”

In February, the council elected 15 members from its ranks to serve as the bargaining committee, which will, with the help of a legal team, develop policies to be presented to the Council of Representatives and eventually to Pitt’s administration during the bargaining process.

It was the bargaining committee that decided last week to file an unfair practices charge against Pitt with the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board alleging the decision to change masking requirements should have been negotiated (See related story).

The bargaining committee has formed several working groups to draft policy proposals. The groups include economic, academic, security, justice and democracy. The first three are pretty self-explanatory. The justice group will look at issues like anti-discrimination, performance evaluations, grievance arbitration and discipline. The democracy group deals with faculty governance, as well as health, safety and environment.

The issues the union will take before the administration will come in pieces, Ciccocioppo said, as it builds to a full contract.

“In terms of how long it takes, it’s hard to say,” she said. “We’re hoping a year, but we’ll just have to see. We want to make sure we get it right. We don’t want to rush it. At the same time, we also know that faculty are eager to have transparency. Having a legally binding contract that spells out our working conditions would be awfully nice.”

When an agreement is finally reached with the administration, only those faculty who have signed a union membership card and paid dues will be able to vote, although the deal will cover all faculty in the bargaining group. Ciccocioppo said all of the Council of Representatives have signed membership cards, but they are not focusing right now on building up that membership.

“We’re really focused on the work of making sure that faculty know what’s happening at the bargaining table, and we’re building up our communication and action team so that we can have more eyes and ears on the grounds,” she said.

The bargaining committee also has been focusing on a survey that was opened for faculty to respond to just before spring break. The results will help the committee “to get an idea of faculty’s priorities and to guide bargaining.”

While many issues will be included in bargaining, Ciccocioppo said, “There are certainly planned improvements that the administration may have had in the works that they want to move forward with or that faculty want them to move forward with, and that’s fine.”

She encouraged faculty to reach out to the union if there’s a project they want to move forward with and the administration is saying they can’t because of the union. She said they’ve already identified a list of issues and projects they’ve heard are being held up, and told the administration that it’s OK to go ahead with them.

Ciccocioppo’s communication and action team, which is voluntary, is tasked with getting the word out to faculty about what the union is doing and with getting feedback. To stay up to date, anyone can sign up for the union’s newsletter at pittfaculty.org. She suggested people use personal email instead of pitt.edu addresses, to avoid the newsletter being tagged as spam.

Those interested in union activities also can get text updates, by texting PITTFACULTY to 47486, or they can reach out to Ciccocioppo via email at info@pittfaculty.org.

Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at suejones@pitt.edu or 724-244-4042.


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