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Past Union Votes Could Mean Trouble For Organized Labor In N.C.

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DURHAM — Two large employers in the Triangle area have seen union efforts fail. Employees at Black and Decker in Fayetteville and nurses at Duke University both voted against union representation. Those votes could mean trouble for organized labor in North Carolina.

Complaining they were overworked and underpaid,nurses at Duke Universitybegan rallying for a union nearly six months ago. But when it came time to vote, the nurses rejected the idea nearly two to one.

Union leaders do not view the rejection as a failure -- some believe it will force Duke management to make changes.

"If Duke can prove they can deliver, then employees don't have a need for a union," says Claude Gray, vice president ofTeamsters Local 391. "But if Duke fails in any capacity, then I'm sure the union will be back again."

For workers at Black and Decker in Fayetteville, the vote was not even close. More than 700 of the plants nearly 1,300 employees voted against joining the United Steelworkers union.

George Shelton of Capital Associated Industries believes the recent union failures should send organized labor a clear message.

"That would tell you there's probably something wrong with either their product or the way they market their product or the perception concerning unions because they're certainly not a growth industry," he says.

Union supporters argue fear usually deters employees from unionizing, but those opposed to organized labor believe the recent votes show most employees do not believe unions offer them a good option. Twenty years ago, there were about 100 union elections a year in North Carolina. So far this year, there have been fewer than 20.


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