Pitt Grad Student Workers Call for Additional Financial Support

Contact: R.J. Hufnagel, 412-562-2450, rhufnagel@usw.org

Administration’s Late Decision to Extend Funding Doesn’t Go Far Enough

Graduate student workers at the University of Pittsburgh are celebrating a decision by the university to support grads facing possible funding shortfalls, while calling for more support for other graduates who are not eligible for that limited program.

The university announced last week that it would provide one semester of additional funding to a narrowly defined group of graduate students in danger of running out of funding in part due to the limitations placed on their work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

That decision followed a year of activism by graduates, including a petition with nearly 900 graduates’ signatures delivered to the administration last summer, calling for a one-year extension of funding for all graduate students, as well as other types of assistance.

“While the administration’s decision is a welcome one, it is woefully late in coming, and does not go nearly far enough in protecting graduate workers,” said Kess Ballentine, a PhD candidate in Pitt’s School of Social Work. “What this also shows is that grassroots activism gets results.”

Ballentine and thousands of other Pitt grads have been organizing to become members of the United Steelworkers (USW) union for the past several years, despite the administration’s relentless, costly union-busting efforts. The grads say that unionized students at other universities have already secured funding protections through the collective bargaining process.

“At unionized schools, graduate workers are involved and engaged in decisions like this that affect them and their work,” Ballentine said. “Sadly, Pitt continues to spend millions of dollars on union-busting attorneys instead of allowing grads a voice in determining their own futures.”

The USW represents 850,000 workers employed in metals, mining, pulp and paper, rubber, chemicals, glass, auto supply and the energy-producing industries, along with a growing number of workers in health care, public sector, higher education, tech and service occupations.

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