Office of the Provost

Guidance for Faculty and Staff on Talking with Graduate Students about a Union

Many faculty and staff members have asked what they can do and say about the on-going graduate student organizing effort. We are providing this guidance to help answer those questions.

You are free to discuss unionization with graduate students. You can also discuss your opinion and experiences with a union if you wish, as well as concerns that you have about what a union may mean for students, for your program and for graduate education at Pitt.  

Here are some specific things you may do:

  • Answer questions raised by your graduate students. For questions you can’t answer, direct students to send questions to gradstudent@pitt.edu.
  • Tell graduate students they do not have to talk with union organizers at their homes, or anywhere else, unless they wish to do so.
  • Suggest that graduate students become informed about what an authorization card is and explain that they do not have to sign a card.
  • Encourage graduate student assistants to be informed about everything a union might mean for them.  Unionization is a consequential decision, one that will impact both current and future generations of University graduate students.  
  • Keep the lines of communication open with your graduate students so they can come to you when they have questions or concerns. When students raise concerns, address them or share them with someone who can.  You may not be able to solve every issue raised by a student, but we take their concerns seriously and we want to make sure that they know it. There are resources for graduate students that answer many common questions about assistantships and associated support.
  • Give examples of things the University has done to address graduate students' concerns. 
  • Remind students of avenues that are available to graduate students to have their voices heard by speaking to faculty, their program leadership, graduate student governance committees and the Graduate and Professional Student Government
  • Talk about what you value in your relationship with your graduate students.
  • Share any concerns you have about how having a union involved will change your relationship with your students, including the loss of your flexibility to meet their individual needs.
  • Explain that a union cannot guarantee students an increase in stipend or any other change.  Everything is subject to negotiations and nothing is guaranteed.

There are some things that you cannot do:

  • Threaten:  Do not do or say anything that threatens harm (economic, academic or other) if graduate students support a union or choose not to.
  • Interrogate:  Do not ask graduate students whether they support the union.  Students are free to share their views with you voluntarily, and you can share yours, but you should not ask them.  
  • Promise:  Do not promise any benefit or improvement to graduate students for supporting or opposing a union.
  • Spy:  Do not spy on union activities or do anything that gives the appearance that you are trying to conduct surveillance on organizing activities.

If you have questions, contact gradstudent@pitt.edu.

Resources for Graduate Students »