April 11, 2019

Dear Graduate Students,

The run up to the election has prompted a flood of information. Some of it is true. Some misleading. Some topics fall far outside a union’s bargaining capacity. And a few “facts” are grossly inaccurate.

Today, I hope to set the record straight on a few key items.   

Giving credit where credit is due. Pitt already provides graduate students many of the “wins” that the United Steelworkers say other unions have accomplished through bargaining at some of our peer schools. For instance: anti-discrimination policies, parental accommodations, free individual health insurance, sexual harassment prevention policies...these provisions are already in place for Pitt grad students.

A little primer on PA law. Pitt is not required to continue stipend increases when contract negotiations are underway (despite what the United Steelworkers claim). Our reference? Pennsylvania labor law, which is very clear that the status quo does not include annual increases during the negotiation process.

Representation matters. Pitt has a strong (and long) track record of working closely with our graduate students. The United Steelworkers, on the other hand, has never represented any graduate students in the United States, despite vague claims about organizing ten thousand individuals in higher education.

Potential conflicts of interest ahead. The United Steelworkers is attempting to represent both Pitt students and Pitt faculty. This raises some important questions, such as: If a graduate student has a grievance involving a faculty member who the Steelworkers also represent will the union be able to fairly represent that student’s interests?  

Remember: If Pitt students vote to be represented by the United Steelworkers, there is no opting out. So, please don’t sit this election out. Make a plan. Get the facts—and vote! 


Nathan Urban
Vice Provost for Graduate Studies

Graduate resources: gradstudents.pitt.edu
Follow: @PittGradStudies
Facebook: PittGradStudies
E-mail: gradstudent@pitt.edu