Union organizers criticize Pitt for payments to law firm


Pitt’s payments to legal counsel have topped $2 million as the faculty and graduate student union campaigns are waiting for the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board to deliver its verdicts on ongoing legal disputes. 

The United Steel Workers, the union campaigns’ legal representatives, criticized the University for having paid the Philadelphia-based law firm Ballard Spahr $2.1 million since 2016. The University paid $900,000 in fiscal year 2020.

“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,” Melinda Ciccocioppo, a lecturer in the university’s Psychology Department, said in a Jan. 29 USW news release. “It’s long past time for the university to end its union-busting efforts.”

The University has repeatedly denied engagement in illegal or unfair labor practices and said it consults with the law firm on topics beyond unionization.

Here is the latest update in the ongoing legal disputes between the University and the unionization campaigns.

Faculty union: The PLRB is still determining the size of the bargaining unit and if employees from the School of Medicine should be included. A briefing is scheduled for Feb. 26 with replies due on March 12, according to the USW. The USW expects a decision to be made in early or mid-April.

Graduate student campaign: The PLRB is still weighing the impact of an engineering professor's email to graduate assistants before the election. It’s still unclear when a decision will be made.

Donovan Harrell is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at dharrell@pitt.edu or 412-383-9905. 


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