Over the last three days, we have been in attendance at the National Labor Relations Board hearing with Proskauer Rose, a union-busting law firm hired by the Duke administration. Proskauer Rose LPP is a New York-based multinational company that was also hired by Columbia University and Yale University to oppose graduate student unionization efforts there. Graduate workers are coming together to organize across the country, and each time we witness the administration respond in a nearly identical manner.
The administration has consistently stated that all graduate students should take part in the union election. We agree, which is why we believe that the administration should drop its challenge and let us vote.
Seeking to contest the NLRB ruling that grad students are employees, the Duke administration is arguing that doctoral students should not be considered employees because all services performed by us (including research, teaching, and grading) are solely part of our academic training and not work for the university. Further, the University has maintained that lab assignments and assistantships we hold in exchange for our monthly compensatory pay are not purposed to support departmental research and teaching activities, but rather they constitute “service” and are entirely for our own benefit.
While we are disappointed that Duke University has chosen to deny the value and importance of our work in supporting its standing as a leading research institution, the Duke Graduate Students Union is confident that the NLRB will affirm our right to organize and collectively bargain as graduate workers. In the months ahead, we look forward to working together as equals to make Duke an even better place to work, study, and conduct research.