Employees of the Duke University Press are seeking to unionize and to become members of the NewsGuild.
"For years, the press has struggled with constant turnover, extended vacancies, low compensation, inconsistent policy enforcement and patterns of discrimination. The expansion of different initiatives, including those related to acquisitions, platform development, product creation, and distribution, has come at the price of employee well-being. The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the precarity experienced by staff members," said a press release from the union.
“We need a union at Duke University Press because we deserve a workplace that recognizes us as whole people, with many different demands and commitments in our lives outside of work,” said Kelsea Smith, an assistant managing editor at the press. “I was offered only three weeks of paid leave when I had my first baby during a pandemic. I've seen others endure some harsh treatment at the press, especially people of color and queer people. I think we need a union because our working conditions affect our whole lives, so we deserve a say over them. The only way to secure that power definitively is by coming together as a union and meeting DUP at the bargaining table.”
Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations at Duke, did not indicate whether Duke would recognize the union or demand an election. "Duke University will observe all legal requirements of the union organizing process if and when it is activated," he said.
He added, "To be clear, DUP employees are Duke University employees, which means they already receive comprehensive health, dental, vision and life insurance coverage with 80 percent of the premiums paid by the university, either a defined benefit pension or a 403(b) retirement program to which the university contributes between 8.9 percent and 13.2 percent of an individual’s annual salary, and tax-free grants worth more than $200,000 for their children’s college tuition."
Unionization of university presses is not common, but it does exist. The Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers represents some employees of the Harvard University Press.