What is a union?
A union is an organized group of workers who unite to make decisions about conditions affecting their work. Labor unions strive to bring economic and social justice, along with a democratic voice, to our workplaces.
In legal terms unions are often called the exclusive bargaining agent. The union acts as the collective voice of the employees when negotiating with the employer regarding the terms and conditions of employment.
At its core the union is us, the staff that make Pitt work.
Do other universities have unions?
Yes! In fact, the United Steelworkers (USW) already represent the faculty here at the University of Pittsburgh, as well as some staff and all adjuncts at Point Park University and at the University of Toronto. Other public universities in Pennsylvania are also unionized, including Temple University, PA State System of Higher Education (CalU, IUP, Slippery Rock, etc.), and the University of Pennsylvania.
I support the staff union because I’ve been a staff member at Pitt for 27 years, and I believe that we need greater transparency about salaries, opportunities for advancement, and a voice in decision-making that affects us. Joining together as a union will help us to accomplish this.
I have spent years serving both the university and my neighborhood communities as both an alumnus of Pitt, and a proud staff member. Our experiences as staff have given us perspective on how to improve and advance these communities. It is time we had the voice and power to make those changes, and I know the Staff Union at Pitt will be a quantum leap forward in advancing those goals.
Clinical and Translational Science Institute
Are there other unions on Pitt's campus?
The faculty, custodians, grounds crew, food service, truck drivers, police officers and security guards, building trades (carpenters, electricians, laborers, painters, plumbers, sheet metal, and steamfitters) are all unionized.
Why the United Steelworkers?
They have experience in higher education and they helped the faculty at Pitt win their union. If we are all in the same international union we can stand together in solidarity.
The USW is a democratic union. Members run their local unions, and leaders from the local all the way to the international are elected by members. And members get to vote on their contracts.
Does the USW represent other professional workers?
Absolutely! In addition to the faculty at the University of Pittsburgh, the United Library Workers at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh system voted to form a union in August 2019; contract workers at Google’s Pittsburgh office voted to form a union in September 2019 and formed the Federation of Tech Workers; and United Museum Workers at the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh voted to form a union in December 2020.
Are we legally allowed to form a union?
Yes. Pitt is in the public sector, which falls under the Public Employee Relations Act (PERA). The Act protects the rights of employees to organize, form, join or assist in employee organizations or to engage in lawful concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid and protection.
Can we be fired for supporting a union?
No. Pennsylvania’s Public Employee Relations Act protects all public employees from retaliation for union activity. So it is illegal, and imprudent in terms of financial liability and negative publicity, for the administration to retaliate against staff in any way for unionizing. Specifically, Section 1201 of the PERA makes the following types of conduct illegal: