Office of the Provost
Vice Provost for Graduate Studies

Dear Doctoral Students,

On October 8, 2019, both the University of Pittsburgh and the United Steelworkers filed exceptions (appeals) to the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (PLRB) hearing officer’s proposed decision ordering a new graduate student union election.

Each party will now have 20 days to respond to the other’s filings and then the full board of the PLRB will review the facts and arguments to determine if the proposed ruling is correct.

We filed our exception because the University acted appropriately leading up to and throughout the April 2019 election. We strongly believe your vote matters and the outcome of the election should be upheld.

You can read our full filing but below are the key takeaways:

  • The PLRB hearing examiner ruled that nine of the 12 allegations filed by the Steelworkers did not have merit.
  • Of the other three counts, two were related to factual statements made on the University’s website. They are very similar to other statements found by the hearing examiner to be appropriate.
  • The third count pertains to an email sent to a small number of eligible voters. In this email, a department chair encourages students to vote—and does not pick a side—while also linking to information from both the Steelworkers and the University.
  • All of the communications in question are accurate, appropriate, and factual.

We look forward to a review of the hearing examiner's proposed order by the PLRB—with full context considered—of these three counts in question. This review may take some time and, while we do not know exactly when the PLRB will issue a decision, we will keep you updated as we learn more.

As always, we are here to support you and your success. I encourage you to reach out to me at any time with ideas, questions or concerns.


Nathan Urban
Vice Provost for Graduate Studies

How Did We Get Here? A Refresher

In April 2019, Pitt teaching assistants, graduate student researchers, and graduate student assistants voted not to be represented by the United Steelworkers.

Post-election, the Steelworkers challenged the actions of the University related to the election by filing claims of unfair labor practices with the PLRB.

In September 2019, the PLRB hearing examiner issued a Proposed Decision and Order, which included an order for a new graduate student union election.

This week, as stated above, both the University and the Steelworkers filed exceptions to the PLRB hearing examiner’s proposed decision.