Duke Graduate Students Union moves for NLRB-certified election by March

The Duke Graduate Students Union filed for an election Friday with the National Labor Relations Board after University administrators chose not to respond to the union’s request for voluntary recognition last week. The election filing requests an NLRB-certified election by the end of March. 

The request includes “all [doctoral] students who perform research or teaching for the university,” according to the DGSU’s press release. 

“We are disappointed and yet unsurprised that the administration failed to stand with its workers,” said Lauren Jenkins, a doctoral student in the Nicholas School of the Environment, in the release. “While Duke has a notorious history of union busting, they once again have the option of standing with their workers by recognizing our bargaining unit and moving ahead with a timely election. While we continue to hope Duke will learn from their mistakes, we will win no matter what they do.”

The union launched its unionization campaign and demanded voluntary recognition once it reached a majority threshold during its September rally. After meeting the 50% threshold required for voluntary recognition last week, the DGSU held a rally demanding voluntary recognition by Friday. 

If a majority of doctoral students vote in favor of a union following an NLRB-certified election in March, the University would be legally required to recognize the union as the exclusive bargaining body for its doctoral students. DGSU would also be the first employer-recognized graduate student union at a private university in the South, per the release. 

“We value our graduate students as part of the Duke community and have a long history of working collaboratively with them to reach their academic goals during their time at Duke. We received a petition from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) on behalf of graduate students at Duke to hold an election to form a union. We are in the process of assessing the request and will respond as appropriate,” wrote Chris Simmons, interim vice president for public affairs and government relations, in an email to The Chronicle. 

The DGSU previously went forth with an NLRB-certified election during their first unionization drive in 2017. However, they withdrew their petition after 502 of their ballots went contested and have since operated as a direct-join union without NLRB recognition. Since then, it has relied on alternative strategies to collective bargaining, such as rallies and petitions.

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Audrey Wang | Data Editor

Audrey Wang is a Trinity senior and data editor of The Chronicle's 120th volume. She was previously editor-in-chief for Volume 119.


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