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Pa. Labor Relations Board rules for Pitt graduate researchers, teaching assistants | TribLIVE.com
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Pa. Labor Relations Board rules for Pitt graduate researchers, teaching assistants

Deb Erdley
| Thursday, March 7, 2019 2:40 p.m
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The Cathedral of Learning on the University of Pittsburgh campus in Oakland

Some 2,000 University of Pittsburgh graduate student researchers, teaching assistants and teaching fellows are university employees and have the right to join a union, the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board ruled.

The group began organizing under the auspices of the Pittsburgh-based United Steelworkers in January 2016 and filed for a union election in December 2017.

Pitt officials, however, filed an objection to the petition. Pitt maintained the graduate workers were students, not employees. A state Labor Relations Board hearing officer heard arguments on the issue in October and issued a ruling in favor of the graduate assistants and researchers Thursday.

United Steelworkers International President Leo W. Gerard applauded the decision.

“Pitt’s grad students work hard as teachers and as researchers, providing valuable services to the university. They are absolutely employees and deserve a seat at the table,” Gerard said in a statement.

University officials were disappointed with the ruling and are evaluating their options, said Pitt spokesman Joseph Miksch. But Pitt will follow the PLRB process, Miksch said.

Graduate students who will be eligible to vote are teaching assistants, teaching fellows, graduate student assistants and graduate student researchers, Miksch said.

“Currently, that is approximately 2,000 graduate students,” he said. “We will prepare a list of eligible voters who are in these groups based on their appointments for the spring semester.”

He said representatives of the university, the United Steelworkers and the PLRB will set a date and place for the election.

“We encourage all eligible students to be fully informed on this important issue — and to vote and make their voices heard when the election occurs,” Miksch said.

Deb Erdley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Deb at 412-320-7996, derdley@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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