By MARTY LEVINE
A group of Pitt staff members is aiming to unionize the staff, attempting to join the United Steelworkers, which represents Pitt faculty, who are currently holding a union vote, and University graduate students, who held an election in 2019 that failed to receive enough votes to certify a union.
The staff union drive was announced this week, with the endorsements of 21 staff members listed on the website thus far. Among these individuals are at least two Staff Council members, including Jessica Lutz (academic advisor in TRIO Student Support Services). Lutz guided Staff Council’s recent staff survey that drew nearly 1,000 responses discussing complaints of “job creep” or “responsibility creep” since the pandemic and Pitt’s most recent early-retirement offer. (See Oct. 8 University Times for details.)
The website of the nascent Pitt Staff Union, which aims to cover staff at all campuses, says: “We are forming a union because every worker at Pitt deserves a seat at the table where decisions are made, and an increase in pay and benefits.” Its stated aim is to “help the University to attract, retain, and motivate the best talent … (and) help set the standard and raise the working conditions of everyone in our community.”
Neither a staff member working on the union nor a Steelworkers representative responded to a request for comment by press time.
The union also claims that: “With a union contract, the administration would have to negotiate with us before making changes to the benefits that keep us healthy, give us access to education, and allow our families to thrive.”
Staff Council has been successful in proposing and pressing for several new benefits in recent years, and has at least one such effort underway today seeking a policy allowing employees time off for volunteer service. Asked whether any staff union would help or hinder Staff Council’s efforts in general, its president Angela Coldren said the group “does not have enough information” yet to make a determination. She said the group was not involved in the union effort and “has no position favoring or disfavoring the union” or concerning its members joining the union effort.
She also said Staff Council has not previously discussed the possibility of a union and that its recent staff survey was unrelated to the idea. “If employees were discussing it, they were discussing it outside of Staff Council,” Coldren said.
Pitt spokesman David Seldin said the University had not yet “received any formal communication regarding this effort” and thus would not have a response.
Marty Levine is a staff writer for the University Times. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-758-4859.
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