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Bernie Sanders releases letter to graduate students voting in union election

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders recently wrote a letter addressing Duke graduate students' upcoming union election.

In these letter, Sanders recounts working with students who are members of unions, including those at the University of Vermont and Vermont State Colleges, and the benefits afforded to graduate students who are members of unions.

"What forming a union means is that you and your co-workers will have the opportunity to sit down as legal equals with management to negotiate a legally binding contract covering all aspects of your wages, benefits and working conditions," the letter reads.

Sanders adds that unionized workers make on average 30 percent more than non-unionized workers and have better benefits and working conditions.

However, he noted that it is not his place to tell graduate students how to vote in the election.

"I respect the critical work you do every day and wish you the best in your efforts to create a democratic workplace where your voice can really be heard," he wrote.

Graduate students will be able to vote in a union election from Jan. 31 to Feb. 21.

In response to a push by the not yet legally recognized Duke Graduate Students Union, the National Labor Relations Board ruled Jan. 19 that the students could in fact unionize, after a challenge from the University. 

DGSU formed last August in response to a nationwide NLRB decision that "student assistants" at private universities could unionize, overturning prior rulings to the contrary. The University has criticized this ruling, arguing that unionization would be detrimental to student interests.

Micheal Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations, said the University had no comment on the letter. 


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