How might forming a faculty union change things at Falk?
As faculty members at Falk, many of us wonder, “How would things change with a union?” It’s an important question. While we cannot predict exactly what will come out of our negotiations with the administration, an examination of what unions have achieved at other university lab schools can provide some guidance. Currently, faculty unions exist at nearly 500 other universities in the United States, representing over 280,000 faculty. Several of these universities include faculty at lab schools, while other university lab schools are included in public school unions.
What will happen in contract negotiations after we vote to form our union?
With a union contract, we can protect the things we like about teaching at the Falk School while working towards improvements. One common misconception around unionization is that we risk losing the advantages of working at Falk now because a union contract starts from scratch. While we don’t know exactly what advancements we will achieve with our contract, we do know that we will start with what we have and build together from there. The status quo is always the starting point in negotiations.
What have faculty unions at other lab schools achieved?
We’ve focused on the union contracts at institutions that are comparable to Pitt and have unionized lab school faculty: the University of Chicago Lab School, the P. K. Yonge School at the University of Florida, the Henry Barnard School at Rhode Island College, and the Metcalf School at Illinois State University.
How will a union for all Pitt faculty address the specific needs of Falk faculty?
Most of the faculty at these schools chose to negotiate a section of the contract specific to the lab schools. As the Union of Pitt Faculty, we plan to do the same. This way, we can address issues unique to Falk while connecting with faculty across the University to improve everyone’s working conditions at Pitt. By standing together, we can all achieve more.
Workload - Faculty at all schools negotiated contracts that set clear definitions of a maximum teaching load. They outline faculty member’s workload and set standards for additional compensation for faculty who choose to work beyond their stated responsibilities. For example, at the P. K. Yonge school and University of Chicago Lab School, program leaders and heads of extracurricular activities receive additional pay. Additionally, at the University of Chicago, there are clear expectations around how many extracurricular events are necessary. While faculty are welcome to attend extra events, it is not a requirement and cannot be factored into evaluations.
Job Security - Because faculty have a greater voice in decision-making with a union contract, they are protected from unilateral changes to their terms and conditions of employment, and from discipline or termination without just cause. A union contract provides an independent, legally-binding recourse if problems are not adequately addressed. Additionally, both the Henry Barnard School and the University of Chicago Lab School establish a tenure-stream position for lab school faculty in their contract.
Scheduling - The contracts also discuss scheduling of parent-teacher conferences, planning time, substitute teachers, and faculty meetings. Through these contracts, faculty gain input into their daily schedules. At the University of Chicago Lab School, class schedules are reduced by 40% when there are evening parent-teacher conferences. Faculty at all schools successfully negotiated minimum standards for planning time in their contracts. For example, faculty at the P. K. Yonge School have a protected 300 minutes of planning time per week. Faculty at the Henry Barnard School pushed for the regular use of substitute teachers, as no faculty member can be required to cover the class of an absent faculty member according to their contract.
Have other questions or concerns? Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org, and a faculty colleague from the Organizing Committee will be in touch.