USW Disappointed in Voter Suppression at Pitt

CONTACT: Jess Kamm Broomell (412) 562-2444

PITTSBURGH – The United Steelworkers (USW) and the Graduate Student Organizing Committee (GSOC) are disappointed by the University of Pittsburgh’s actions and use of “union avoidance” firm Ballard Spahr leading up to the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (PLRB) vote to be held later this spring.

“I’m deeply disappointed that Pitt is fighting its own graduate student employees and obstructing our right to simply hold an election for a union,” said Caitlin Schroering, a graduate student assistant in the Sociology Department. “Let us vote, and let us do it in a way that makes voting accessible for students.”

Representatives of the university administration are attempting to push the PLRB and the USW to hold the election in more remote campus locations uphill from easily recognized and central buildings like the William Pitt Union or the Cathedral of Learning. 

“Keep the vote fair by locating polling places in a convenient place for the most grads,” said Patrick Beckhorn, a teaching fellow in the Anthropology Department. “Anything less amounts to the administration’s continued disregard for the rights of its grad student employees.”

The University of Pittsburgh administration is claiming the best places for a union election would be the Biomedical Science Tower and Benedum Hall, the home of Swanson School of Engineering. 

Emily Ackerman, a graduate student in the Chemical Engineering Department, disagrees. “Many of my colleagues would feel uncomfortable or intimidated voting in a building whose common spaces are so hyper-visible and open to the administrators of the School of Engineering,” said Ackerman. “The William Pitt Union is a more accessible and private space for voting.”

“It is disappointing that people I am supposed to look up to are using a union-busting law firm and are now engaged in plausibly deniable voter suppression by trying to hold the election in areas that would lower turnout,” said Daniel Libertz, a teaching fellow in the English Department.

The PLRB issued its decision in favor of Pitt’s grad workers last week, affirming their status as employees with the right to seek a union election.

The Academic Workers Association is part of the USW, which represents 850,000 workers in North America employed in many industries that include metals, rubber, chemicals, paper, oil, the service and public sectors and higher education.

Press Inquiries

Media Contacts

Communications Director:
Jess Kamm at 412-562-2446

USW@WORK (USW magazine)
Editor R.J. Hufnagel

For industry specific inquiries,
Call USW Communications at 412-562-2442

Mailing Address

United Steelworkers
Communications Department
60 Blvd. of the Allies
Pittsburgh, PA 15222