By SUSAN JONES
The Union of Pitt Faculty is planning a rally outside the Board of Trustees meeting at 10:30 a.m. Feb. 24 at William Pitt Union to focus attention on the administration’s failure to present a counterproposal to the union’s compensation plan.
The union’s bargaining committee has proposed a base salary of $60,000 for all full-time faculty members and a comparable pro-rated amount for part-time faculty. Melinda Ciccocioppo, head of the union’s communication and action team, said the bargaining committee presented this proposal, but has yet to hear a counterproposal from Pitt’s administration.
Ciccocioppo said she has been at Pitt full time for six year and got promoted to teaching associate professor of psychology last year, but still makes less than $60,000. She noted that many in the natural sciences division of the Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences fall below that threshold. “There’s a misconception that it’s only faculty in the humanities, but that’s not true.”
When she was a part-time instructor for the 300-student Intro to Psychology class, Ciccocioppo said her teaching assistant got paid more than she did. The union’s proposal asks that part-time faculty get paid a pro-rated portion of the $60,000 minimum commensurate with the work that they’re doing.
The other issues the union wants the administration to address are:
Pay inequities based on race or gender or salary compression — when a new employee gets paid more than someone who has been at Pitt several years doing a similar job.
Cost of living adjustments, which the union wants to keep pace with inflation. “The administration has said that cost of living adjustments should keep pace with inflation, but they haven’t been — not even close,” Ciccocioppo said.
The money for these wage adjustments, the union believes, can come from the University’s endowment, which gained more than $1.4 billion in 2020-21. It had a market value of $5.5 billion on June 30, 2022, according to Pitt’s Office of Finance. The union also sites the operating budget surplus, which was $129 million last year. The Office of the Chief Financial Officer, said, “an increase in operating net assets is a more accurate term (as opposed to budget surplus) as it reflects the one-time nature of the funds.”
The delay in responses from the administration also has been a “perpetual problem for us,” Ciccocioppo said. “We keep giving proposals and then waiting a very long time for counters. Thankfully, they’ve started having productive discussions around job security after we had some actions last semester around that. But still the pace is too slow. We’ve been doing this for a year now; it’s too slow.”
The two sides have been meeting about twice a month. The last session was on Feb. 7. The union is giving regular bargaining updates on its website.
The rally outside the Board of Trustees meeting will be similar to actions taken by the union last fall. These included about 150 faculty standing outside the bargaining room in Posvar Hall in October as the administration’s team entered and then the faculty filing silently through the room, and then around 70 faculty protesting outside the provost’s office in the Cathedral of Learning in December. Only select faculty were told about those actions before they happened, but the Feb. 24 rally is being more widely publicized.
Ciccocioppo said they targeted this meeting of the Board of Trustees, because “they only have three public meetings a year, so that’s not a lot of opportunities to have our voices heard. This is a rare opportunity to make sure that they see us. The board are the ultimate decision makers, especially concerning things like the budget, and given the fact that we’re pushing for fair pay, this is something we want to be on their radar. We also know that they have some pull with the administration and to call on the administration to say, ‘Let’s get this done.’”
Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-244-4042.
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