Your Questions Answered

What is the United Steel Workers union?

The United Steel Workers (USW) is one of the largest labor unions in the country.  The USW’s Web site indicates that the “USW represents 850,000 men and women employed in metals, mining, pulp and paper, rubber, chemicals, glass, auto supply and the energy-producing industries, along with a growing number of workers in public sector and service occupations.”  In recent years they have been working to organize on college and university campuses in Pittsburgh. 

What is the process for organizing the Pitt faculty into a union?

It’s a two-step process. First, a union seeking to represent our faculty must obtain signed cards or petitions from at least 30% of the full and part-time faculty. If they are successful in obtaining the signatures, they then petition the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (PLRB) to hold an election. Upon review of the signatures obtained, if the PLRB decides all conditions are satisfied, it calls for a secret ballot election to be conducted among the group of faculty it decides are eligible to vote.  The election’s outcome is determined by a simple majority of faculty who vote, just like a political election. Although we have more than 5,000 faculty who could potentially be eligible to vote, if only 500 of them were to vote and the union obtained 251 votes, the union would be certified as the exclusive bargaining representative of ALL University of Pittsburgh faculty in the unit certified by the PLRB.

Learn more about the PLRB »

Why does the university want to include the medical school in the faculty union?

The University has not attempted to obstruct the faculty's consideration of unionization. In fact, we have been very clear that this is a faculty matter that should be discussed and considered carefully. All faculty—including School of Medicine faculty—should have an equal voice in this important decision.

What does signing a card or petition mean?

Signing a union authorization card or petition means that you are authorizing the United Steel Workers to act as your exclusive representative with respect to wages, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment. This gives the union the right to petition for an election and binds you and everyone else in the bargaining unit determined by the PLRB to the results of the election, even if you choose not to vote.

Are union organizers permitted to talk to me in the workplace or at my home?

Yes. In recent days, some faculty members have asked what they can do if they are approached by non-university union organizers on campus. Union organizers who are not employees have the same access rights as other non-employees. Similarly, union organizers who are employees have the same rights to access as other employees. Union organizers may not disrupt your teaching and/or research work. They should not harass or intimidate anyone. If you do not wish to interact with union organizers, you may ask them to leave. There have also been instances of union organizers visiting faculty members at their homes. There is no obligation for faculty members to grant entrance to their homes.

If Pitt faculty unionized, would I have to join the union?

If a union is certified, faculty would be able to choose whether to be members of the union and pay dues or not. However, whether faculty join the union or not, all faculty in the certified bargaining unit would be exclusively represented by the union and their terms and conditions of employment would be governed by what is negotiated between the University and the Union. Faculty would lose the right to deal directly with the University regarding the terms and conditions of their employment. Faculty would have no right to opt out of being covered by a collective bargaining agreement, even if they choose not to pay dues or join the union.

Why does the university believe chairs should not be included in the bargaining unit?

Among their many duties, department chairs hire part-time faculty, assign work to faculty, play leading roles in promotion and tenure decisions, and often have input in salary decisions for new and continuing faculty. For these reasons, faculty members who fill these important roles should be classified as management. It's also worth noting that having managerial duties and being classified as management is a legal determination and has nothing to do with whether chairs are advocates for faculty.