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"Graduate students from Duke University triumph in union election with a decisive victory"

Graduate students at Duke University have won their election to unionize, forming the largest graduate student union at a private university in the South. The final vote count was 1,000 votes for the union and 131 against, with supporters receiving 88%. The university has seven days to challenge the results before they are certified. The Duke Graduate Student Union hopes to negotiate contracts with the university, focusing on issues such as equitable pay, improved benefits, and support for international students.

In a momentous victory, graduate students at Duke University have emerged triumphant in their efforts to unionize, marking a significant milestone in their quest to establish a formally recognized labor union. If the results are officially certified, Duke's PhD students who work as teaching assistants and researchers will form the largest graduate student union at a private university in the South.

The final vote count, which took place on Tuesday, revealed a landslide victory for the union, with 1,000 votes in favor and only 131 against. To secure success, supporters needed a simple majority of returned ballots, and they achieved an impressive 88%.

Kerry Eller, co-secretary of the Duke Graduate Student Union, expressed the significance of this historic triumph not only for the university and the improvement of working conditions for graduate workers but also for the broader labor movement in North Carolina and the graduate student labor movement as a whole.

Responding to the election results, provost Alec Gallimore emphasized Duke University's deep commitment to its graduate students. He stated that the university looks forward to collaborating with representatives of the Southern Region Workers United to ensure the graduate experience at Duke is of the highest quality.

The university now has a seven-day window to contest the election results; otherwise, the outcome will be officially certified. During the vote count, representatives from the National Labor Relations Board, accompanied by university administrators, tallied the pink paper ballots at the board's sub-regional office in Winston-Salem, N.C. The leaders of the Duke Graduate Student Union, along with their supporters, watched the process unfold at a watch party in Durham, N.C., where occasional "No" votes were met with boos.

Supporters of the union live-streamed the vote count on a large screen TV in an empty classroom, while simultaneously keeping their own tally on opposing whiteboards. The moment of victory arrived when they surpassed the threshold of approximately 600 affirmative votes required to secure success, prompting an eruption of cheers and celebration among the students.

This election marked the second attempt by Duke University graduate students to unionize. In 2017, a majority of eligible students voted against unionization, revealing divisions among academic departments. However, the landscape has since changed, with the majority of those students having graduated, paving the way for a renewed push for union representation.

For this election, approximately 2,500 PhD students from Duke University, who serve as research or graduate assistants and receive compensation for their work, were permitted to vote by mail. Members of the Duke Graduate Student Union eagerly anticipate the certification of the results, as it will allow them to commence contract negotiations with Duke University.

The union's key priorities include securing a seat at the table to represent themselves and advocate for their needs as workers, as well as achieving equitable pay. Additionally, they seek stipend increases that align with the cost of living, comprehensive vision and dental benefits, improved support for workers with children, and increased assistance for international students navigating the visa process.

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