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Pitt faculty votes to join United Steelworkers union

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA

The University of Pittsburgh’s 3,300 faculty members will join the United Steelworkers union after they completed a successful unionization drive on Tuesday. Preliminary results show overwhelming support for the union.

The Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board held a mail ballot election over the last several weeks for faculty members at all five Pitt campuses.

According to USW, more than 71% of faculty members who voted cast their ballots in favor of the union.

Advocates say it will result in better job security for workers, more positive educational outcomes for students, and increased transparency across the university.

“This result has been a long time coming, but it was worth the wait,” Tyler Bickford, an associate professor in Pitt’s English department, said in a statement. “It’s a good feeling to know that we as faculty members have finally achieved what all workers deserve – a voice in the decision-making process that affects our lives on the job.”

Efforts to form a union formally started in 2016. Faculty filed for a union election in 2019, but the vote was held up by legal challenges from the administration. Pitt paid more than 2 million dollars to a “union avoidance” law firm over the course of 4 years.

“Simply put, this will make Pitt a better institution,” Bickford said.

In aTweet, the Pitt faculty union said their next step is to elect an inclusive bargaining committee that encompasses Pitt’s “various roles, schools, and campuses.”

“We will consult with all of our colleagues—regardless of how they voted—to identify the whole faculty’s priorities in those negotiations,” they wrote. “We look forward to sitting down with the administration to identify our common ground and come up with creative solutions to make Pitt an even better place to teach, learn, do research, and care for patients.”

Aseparate unionization effort by graduate students is ongoing.

Julia Zenkevich is a general assignment reporter for 90.5 WESA. She first joined the station as a production assistant on The Confluence, and more recently served as a fill-in producer for The Confluence and Morning Edition. She’s a life-long Pittsburgher, and attended the University of Pittsburgh. She can be reached at