In a tweet earlier today, the Duke University Press Workers Union announced that, with a final count of the three outstanding votes, it has now won its election to unionize. 

“We are excited to finally have all the votes counted and to have the support of a majority of the workers at Duke University Press! We’re looking forward to starting negotiations with Duke University to make Duke University Press the best publisher it can be,” a representative from the union said in a statement to the INDY, noting that the university had intent to appeal the results and push for a second election. 

Employees at Duke University Press (DUP) had announced intent to unionize in March of 2021as a unit of The NewsGuild, TNG-CWA Local 3203. A day after the announcement, Duke University hired the multinational law firm Ogletree Deakins Nash Smoak & Stewart. 

Employees originally voted to unionize in June, but the eligibility of seven votes was challenged: two by Duke and five by the union. 

Sandra Korn, an assistant editor who has worked at DUP for more than six years, told the INDY in August that the creation of a workers union was “part of a wave of workers in the publishing and communications industry who want a greater say in what our workplace in the future looks like.” 

The aims of the union’s mission statement included addressing “constant turnover, extended vacancies, disruptive reorganizations, lack of professional growth opportunities, patterns of discrimination, inconsistent enforcement of policies, and compensation that is not commensurate with our quality of work and years of experience as professionals (or the cost of living in Durham and around the Triangle).”

The year 2021 was a banner one for the unionization movement in the publishing and communications industry: According to Poynter, journalists across the country formed at least 35 union campaigns, with successful efforts at outlets like Politico, The Atlantic, and MSNBC. 

Not all employees were on board with the union: In a letter to the INDY in August, George Black, a data administration employee at DUP, wrote that “the majority of press workers oppose unionization,” adding “The Press is a small department of the university. It would be like the workers within the history department unionizing. It’s a shortcut to hard organizing work across an organization and it’s entirely misguided because such a union will lack power. Duke employs 43,000 workers. Why should 35 workers within one department get better benefits than all other union workers?” 

Michael Schoenfeld, chief communications officer at Duke University, told the INDY that “the university’s objection to the election process that was filed before this latest vote count is still pending before the NLRB Regional Office.”

The union says that it is ready to move forward, writing “the time for legal maneuvering is over. The union is ready to begin bargaining now.” 

This post was updated with a comment from the Duke University spokesperson. 

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