Graduate students withdraw unionization petition
On behalf of the Duke Graduate Students Union, the Service Employees International Union has withdrawn its petition to unionize, according to new documents from the National Labor Relations Board.
A prior unionization vote led to inconclusive results, with 691 students voting against the union and 398 in favor. However, 502 ballots were challenged between both Duke and the SEIU, which would have represented DGSU had they won the election. Had the petition not been withdrawn, the NLRB would have held hearings to settle the challenges.
The new NLRB document notes that the SEIU is not allowed to file a petition encompassing a similar group of students within six months of the order.
Although there will be no graduate student union, Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations, wrote in an email that the University would continue to work with this community.
"We look forward to continuing the important collaborative partnership with our graduate students to support their educational experience at Duke," he wrote.
Scott Barish, a graduate student who was in favor of the union, wrote in an email that DGSU decided not to pursue a "legal strategy" because they did not think they could effectively challenge the University.
"We have chosen to not pursue a legal strategy at this time because we in the Duke Graduate Student Union know that it is unlikely that we could effectively challenge the administration's silencing of graduate students' votes through a system that is set up to support employers over workers," he wrote. "We are still committed to fighting to improve the working conditions of graduate students and look forward to doing so in the coming period."
But graduate student Katherine Marusak, on behalf of Students Against Duke Unionization, wrote in an email that she was pleased with this turn of events.
"We are relieved that SEIU has withdrawn their petition. We are confident that the ratio of yes/no ballots counted in this election extends to the overall graduate student population, which does not support this campaign," she wrote. "We hope that we can reunite going forward and we wish all graduate students the best in their pursuits to affect change on campus through existing channels and in their academic progress."
Editor's note: This article was updated at 7:25 p.m. to note that the petition was withdrawn by the SEIU on behalf of the graduate student union. This article was updated at 9:00 p.m. to include Barish's comments, and at 11:15 p.m. to include Marusak's comments.