Join Us For [DIS]Orientation 2017

Like cookies? Want to learn more about Duke’s Graduate Student Union? Join us for [DIS]Orientation 2017. We’ll be hosting a series tasty and informative events from Aug 21 — 25, and we want you there. It’ll be a chance to kick back, get to know your colleagues, and learn more about the exciting work Duke’s Grad Student Union has planned for the fall semester.

Check out our [DIS]Orientation guide here: DisorientationGuide


Full event schedule here:

Monday Aug 21: Cookies for Continuation Fees: Bake Sale on Abele Quad, 11am-3pm

Tuesday Aug 22: Pay Gap Potluck: 2409 Perkins Road, 6pm-9pm

Wednesday Aug 23: Forward Together Rally: Abele Quad, 5:30pm-6:30pm

Thursday Aug 24: All of Us Storytelling: White Auditorium, 6pm-8pm

Friday Aug 25:  Union Local Social: The Vault at the Palace International, 6:30pm-9pm

Huge Win! Sixth-Years Will Get Tuition Covered!

Sixth-year grad workers will now have full tuition coverage! This is a big win for us -and more evidence that direct action gets the goods. But we still have lots of work left to do!

From the Grad School: “Effective immediately, Duke will provide tuition scholarships for Ph.D. students in their sixth year who do not have other sources of tuition support. Duke already covers tuition for all Ph.D. students for their first five years as part of their guaranteed funding package. Most of our students who go into a sixth year are able to obtain external or departmental funding that includes tuition support. A small number, however, are not. The new scholarships will cover tuition for those students in their sixth year.”



We remain united for a better Duke

Dear Colleagues,

Since our campaign began, Duke has opted to battle us in the courtroom rather than listen to our voices. Despite a National Labor Relations Board ruling that we are workers and deserve rights, Dean McClain argued from the outset that we are not employees of the university. Duke’s lawyers went on to pick any legal fight they could in order to help run out the clock before President Trump fills the NLRB with anti-labor Republicans. The administration’s petty legal strategy culminated just hours before the election, when they successfully petitioned for hundreds of ballots to be impounded, depriving many graduate students of a vote.

We will continue to oppose Duke’s silencing tactics, but after careful consideration we have realized we can not effectively reform Duke from within a courtroom. Legal challenges to the University’s union busting would take months if not years to resolve. Simply put, right now we cannot meaningfully challenge the Duke administration within a legal structure that plays to the interests of money, power, and influence. This is not a decision to quit fighting – rather, it is a recognition that the source of our strength is not lawyers or litigation, but our collective knowledge, power and experience as graduate student workers.

Fundamentally, a union is a group of workers joining together to improve their work experience. Over the past months, graduate students from across departments and disciplines have done exactly that. Hundreds of us – many of whom knew little about unions to begin with – discovered how our graduate experiences could be improved through collective action. We learned to speak openly about our grievances and to think constructively about how to address them. The energy and momentum that we unleashed has already transformed our campus, and it will continue.

There are many examples of unions having an enormous impact even where they are not formally recognized. The North Carolina Association of Educators has for years fought for the interests of public schoolteachers, even as state law forbids them from collective bargaining. Likewise, the graduate student union at the University of Chicago has won major victories without NLRB recognition. We aspire to that model, and wholeheartedly believe we can succeed in effecting change – and indeed can pioneer a path for innovative labor organizing in the right-to-work South.

During the election we asked you to fill out a bargaining survey and we still hope to gather as many responses as possible so we know what to prioritize as we move forward.  And if you are interested in deepening your involvement, please contact us at

In solidarity,

Duke Graduate Students Union Organizing Committee

Our Union Election: An Update

Dear Colleague,

We’d like to offer a quick update on the current status of our union election. Unfortunately, we do not have final results to report.

Duke University administrators, through their lawyers, have questioned our well-established right to a union election and sought lengthy delays at nearly every step of the process — and that extended to Friday’s vote count.

The University challenged hundreds of ballots at the National Labor Relations Board office in Winston Salem on February 24, putting the results of our election, and many of our votes, in limbo. We are upset, but not surprised. More importantly we remain upbeat. Despite these indeterminate election results, we are determined to keep building our union, and to organize to raise standards on campus.

Over the past several months, many of us have worked very hard to build a real voice for ourselves and join with other graduate students around the country who are uniting with SEIU. This news doesn’t change the course we are on. We’ll keep fighting to build our union. We’re resolved to change the status quo by working with Duke faculty and graduate workers across the country to raise standards in higher education.

The fact that we have come this far, and seen as much unity and passion as we have over the past few months has been itself an inspiration. We’ve had the opportunity to talk to each other, to learn from each other, and to empathize with each others’ struggles. As we wait for the voting results, we remain united and full of hope.

Join us on Wednesday, March 1st as we rally for our vote and our future! We’ll gather outside the Allen Building at 4:15 pm with faculty, undergraduates and other supporters and mark the next chapter of our campaign, which is to demand that our voices be heard.

Finally, to those of you who had misgivings about forming a union. This is your union election, too, and we hope that you will agree with us — Duke University shouldn’t hide behind an anti-democratic legal strategy to silence our voices.

If you are interested in becoming actively involved in any way, please let us know.

In solidarity,

DGSU Organizing Committee

Durham City Council Members Support DGSU

We are grateful to receive so much support from our elected officials!

Durham City Council Members Jillian Johnson, Steve Schewel, and Charlie Reece have issued statements about our campaign to raise standards on our campus – and, in turn, in the broader Durham community.


BvcWicen.jpg“When I was in graduate school, I got pregnant. I didn’t receive the support I needed, and I ended up leaving the program. There were no protections. So I know personally that graduate students are workers and that unions are necessary. I’m excited to support this effort here in Durham and around the country.” -Jillian Johnson, Durham City Council



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“I want to offer my enthusiastic support to the Duke Graduate Students Union in the upcoming vote for unionization. The union can help Duke’s graduate assistants win fair wages and benefits–and that will benefit the entire Durham community.” -Steve Schewel, Durham City Council



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“I’m proud to stand with the Duke Graduate Students Union in their vote for unionization. By forming a union, Duke’s graduate assistants can speak with one voice in their negotiations with Duke University. And as they are successful in negotiating for higher wages and better benefits, the city of Durham will be the better for their efforts.” -Charlie Reece, Durham City Council