USW Calls on Pitt to Drop Anti-Union Attack on Faculty, Grads

Contact: R.J. Hufnagel, 412-562-2450,

The United Steelworkers (USW) union is calling on the University of Pittsburgh administration to end its anti-union campaign against the university’s graduate students and faculty in light of reports showing that Pitt has paid more than $2 million on union-busting attorneys in recent years.

The university paid Philadelphia “union avoidance” firm Ballard Spahr nearly $900,000 during the fiscal year that ended June 30 to help the university wage campaigns to stop Pitt graduate student workers and faculty members in their simultaneous efforts to join the USW. That amount brought the total Pitt has paid the firm to more than $2.1 million since 2016.

“It’s unconscionable that Pitt accepts millions in Pennsylvania taxpayer dollars while in turn spending millions of dollars to prevent its own employees from having a voice on the job,” said Melinda Ciccocioppo, a lecturer in the university’s Psychology Department. “It’s long past time for the university to end its union-busting efforts.”

The university graduate student workers fell just short in a vote to join the USW in April 2019, an outcome that came as a result of unfair labor practices by the university. A Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (PLRB) hearing examiner ordered a new election, but the university contested that ruling.

Likewise, a PLRB hearing examiner ruled last summer that the university administration artificially inflated a list of its faculty employees in order to impede the faculty’s unionization campaign.

“Allowing the university’s work force to have a voice in the decision-making processes that affect their lives and the lives of students would be a win-win for everyone on campus,” said Kim Garrett, a PhD candidate in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health. “It’s shameful that the university is spending that $2 million-plus to silence students and faculty instead of using it to improve their lives.”

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