I am writing on behalf of the staff members opposed to unionization at Duke University Press in response to the article you published on August 2ndEmployees at Duke University Press Want a Union, So Duke Hired a Union-Busting Law Firm.

The majority of our staff, including the managers, oppose unionization for DUP. The campaign phase of the current unionization effort has concluded, and we are now awaiting the results of an extremely close election among eligible voters, with an uncertain outcome.

Currently, there are 35 union-eligible employees at Duke University Press who want a union and 36 union-eligible employees who do not want a union.*  I’m one of the 36 union-eligible workers who doesn’t want a union. 

In this world right now, where “moral purity” is expected of anyone who doesn’t want to be publicly excoriated, you can’t speak publicly and have an honest conversation about this misguided union campaign. Unfortunately, this means that all media coverage of the union is only hearing one side.  

Here are some things that the public doesn’t know about the Duke University Press Workers Union that will help understand both sides. 

The union organizers from the beginning have focused their strategy on damaging the Press and misrepresenting facts. For many of us who have worked many years at DUP, this has been heartbreaking and unacceptable. I have worked my entire career to get to a place with the benefits Duke provides. I don’t want anything to happen to that. I also have direct experience with the NewsGuild in my past career and the experience was horrendous. 

These union organizing efforts began before our director arrived at the Press in June of 2019. We have made tremendous progress since then in improving workplace climate, which I believe is a key reason that our publishing program has experienced unprecedented success in the face of a global pandemic. We’ve just completed two of the most successful years in the 100-year history of the Press. I don’t won’t to see that momentum slowed or our relationship with the university damaged because of a union. 

My union colleagues continue to misrepresent everything that is happening. In their latest misrepresentation, they have stated that Duke University objected to the election because of a video glitch during the vote count. The truth is that there are multiple objections. The primary objection is that the NLRB forgot to put postage on the original ballots, had to send new ballots with postage, and then created a shortened schedule which meant that a couple of ballots might not have arrived on time.  In an election that is basically tied, this is a critical mistake. 

Two union backers left the press in July (one retired and another took a much higher-level job at another press) and the union knows that a recount may result in a loss. They are desperate to find another way to win right now aside from a fair election process. 

The DUP Workers Union continually states that unions exist at other university presses. In fact, no other university press has a union. Yes, there are unionized workers at other presses, but those workers belong to university-wide unions. Harvard University Press employs clerical workers who belong to the Harvard Clerical and Technical Workers Union. This union was established almost 30 years ago. When all 5,000 clerical and technical workers at Harvard University bargain for better wages, they have power. Similarly, there are unionized workers at Wayne State University Press who belong to two separate university-wide unions. 

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? 

There is a reason that there is substantial opposition to the DUP Workers Union from union-eligible employees. I hope that your reporting does justice to the full picture. So far, media accounts have failed to do so and have simply reproduced misleading union propaganda.  

* Here is how I calculated these numbers: 35 official pro-union official votes + 2 votes Duke challenged, presumably pro-union = 37  – two pro-union employees who left the press in July = 35

32 anti-union official votes + 4 votes that the union challenged, presumably anti-union = 36

Note: There are 3 new employees who just joined DUP and who were not here for the vote so we do not know if they support the union or not.

The writer is a data administration analyst at Duke University Press. 

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