Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Pitt Pushes against Plrb Ruling, Moves to Block Union Election

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Pitt Pushes against Plrb Ruling, Moves to Block Union Election

Article excerpt

The University of Pittsburgh has moved to block a new graduate assistant union election on its campus that was ordered last month by a Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board official, saying Pitt disagrees with findings of unfair labor practices.

The university filed exceptions to the hearing examiner's proposed decision and asserts that "the institution acted appropriately leading up to and throughout the April 2019 election, when a majority of graduate students voted against representation by the United Steelworkers,'' according to a statement released by Pitt on Tuesday.

Pitt cited the examiner's proposed ruling that nine of the 12 allegations filed by the steelworkers lacked merit.

The statement said that of the remaining three, "Two counts were related to factual statements made on the university's website that are similar in nature 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,'' it said.

Pitt, in its statement, said the communications at issue "are accurate, appropriate, and factual."

"The university looks forward to a closer review - with full context considered - of these three counts in question."

An 81-page brief filed with the PLRB by lawyers for the university asserts that setting aside the election results "sets a dangerous precedent."

The effort to organize about 2,000 teaching, research and other graduate assistants left the steelworkers 37 votes shy when votes were counted. But the union and student organizers on campus say Pitt administrators used tactics including coercion that discouraged the vote.

The proposed PLRB ruling and order for a new election was issued by Hearing Examiner Stephen Helmerich on Sept. 18. Pitt had 20 days to say if it would appeal.

Mr. Helmerich examined events surrounding a four-day election held on campus in mid-April. …

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