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


New Report: Our Union, Our Future

Graduate workers face many challenges in the changing higher education landscape. Across the country, we are uniting to face these challenges by fighting for a renewed commitment to quality, accessible higher duke-report-quotes_finaleducation that pays graduate
workers a living wage and generates more opportunities for all of our communities.

Read our new report to read about the union difference for graduate assistants:

  • Graduate unions lead to better pay, benefits, and lower fee levels.
  • Graduate students with a union have more affordable healthcare.
  • Unionized graduate assistants have won many other important benefits for economic security.
  • Unionized graduate assistants have greater protections from discrimination and harassment.
  • The union movement is an advocate for improved and transparent research funding.

Duke graduate workers want a strong organization to address a lack of voice and security on the job.

Read the report here.

Sixty percent of respondents to a survey of Duke graduate workers were “definitely interested” in joining together to form a union. Seventy-nine percent indicated that they view a role for a unified graduate worker and faculty voice in advocating for improved working conditions at Duke positively.

The higher education landscape is likely to be volatile over the next few years. By voting to form a union, Duke graduate workers can join a movement to elevate the voice of graduate workers, faculty, and other academic workers to improve their economic security, protections from discrimination and harassment, and increase public funding support for University-based research.

Read the new report “Our Union, Our Future” and commit to voting yes!

NC House members stand with Duke graduate students

Nine members of the North Carolina House of Representatives—Rep. Verla Insko, Rep. John Autry, Rep. Jean Farmer-Butterfield, Rep. Phillip A. Lehman, Rep. Greg R. Meyer, Rep. Garland E. Pierce, Rep. Shelly Willingham, Rep. Bobbie Richardson, and Rep. Susan C. Fisher—have written to President Brodhead, expressing their support for the Duke Graduate Students Union and asking the administration to take a neutral stance. We are grateful to receive support from our elected leaders!

Read their full letter below:

February 2, 2017
Office of the President
Duke University
207 Allen Building
Box 90001
Durham, North Carolina 27708-0001

Dear President Brodhead,

As a preeminent institution of higher education, Duke University is an important driver of research, education, and our economy in North Carolina. In part, the thousands of graduate student assistants who conduct research and teach courses at Duke enable this important work. As research assistants, they contribute to innovative inquiry that seeks to safeguard human health, revitalize our democracy, and spawn entrepreneurship. As teaching assistants and lead instructors, they mentor and inspire the next generation of leaders.

For all these reasons, we are encouraged by recent efforts by graduate students at Duke to join with a national movement of students and faculty uniting to improve higher education. The National Labor Relations Board’s recent decision to restore their right to collectively bargaining was a long time coming.

As graduate students at Duke exercise this right, we urge your administration to commit to the following:

  • Allow graduate students a free and fair process to form their union and collectively bargain without intimidation or threats;
  • Avoid any action that delays or interferes with the right to seek union representation or collectively bargain;
  • If a majority chooses union representation, begin negotiations in good faith without delay.

The collective bargaining process will allow Duke the opportunity to set standards for the larger region. Further, it will create a fair process for employees to improve working conditions and resolve disputes in a fashion that serves the teaching, learning, and research objectives of higher education.

We look forward to working with you on this important effort.

The following members added their signature by email:


Rep. Verla Insko
House District 56 – Orange County

Rep. John Autry
House District 100 – Mecklenburg

Rep. Jean Farmer-Butterfield
House District 24 – Pitt, Wilson

Rep. Philip A. Lehman
House District 30 – Durham

Rep. Graig R. Meyer
House District 50 – Durham, Orange

Rep. Garland E. Pierce
House District 48 – Hoke, Richmond, Robeson, Scotland

Rep. Shelly Willingham
House District 23 – Edgecombe, Martin

Rep. Bobbie Richardson
House District 7 – Franklin, Nash

Rep. Susan C. Fisher
House District 114- Buncombe

Solidarity with SEIU Duke Grad Student Organizing Effort from UE Local 150

We are honored to receive the support from UE Local 150 North Carolina Public Service Workers Union for our campaign to win our union! A delegation of UE 150 leaders delivered a solidarity statement to our organizing committee on September 15. We stand shoulder to shoulder with our sisters and brothers from UE 150 in the fight for racial, economic, and social justice!

Please read their solidarity statement below.


We bring you heartfelt well-wishes and solidarity in your efforts to build a new graduate student-worker union at Duke University with the Service Employees International Union.  Union organizing efforts in the US South face difficult hurdles and a legacy that often makes us the least unionized state in the country, with less than 2% union density.  However, the fight for $15 campaign and other important efforts of SEIU, UE150 the Southern Workers Assembly and many others are changing that history!   Any time workers are organized, it strengthens our overall statewide, Southern-wide and nationwide movement for workers power and justice.

In the early 2000’s graduate student workers were critical support for the organizing efforts that UE local 150, NC Public Service Workers union launched to organize mostly blue-collar workers on state universities, which helped us build statewide power as a workers organization.  It is great that finally graduate student workers have their own freedom to organize acknowledged by the National Labor Relations Board and can build your own power and organization!

Our unions together, along with others in the labor movement, can forge a great fight against income inequality, racism and social justice.  It is workers that make the economy move. Workers united can organize for fundamental economic power and for a better world!

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us to ask for help, or for solidarity in any form. In these challenging times for working people and labor unions, rank-and -file  union  workers’ leadership and social movement unionism are two pillars that UE believes are critically important. We look forward to solidarity in action with your young union local.

Forward together!

UE local 150, NC Public Service Workers Union Executive Board

Larsene Taylor, President

Angaza Laughinghouse, Vice President

Nathanette Mayo, President-Elect

Donald Harris, Vice President-Elect

Jim Wrenn, Financial Secretary

Bonita Johnson, Assistant Financial Secretary

Raymond Sanders, Chief Steward

Kevin Yancey, Vice Chief Steward

Darrion Smith, DHHS Council Chair


Join the campaign to raise standards at Duke

We are uniting as graduate student workers at Duke to raise standards on our campus and beyond.

We are graduate student workers who teach and conduct research at Duke University. The lucida-brightGraduate School describes thriving graduate students as “creative, venturesome, and unwilling to accept worn-out answers” and we are just that. We are uniting to raise standards on our campus and beyond.

Have more questions? Visit our FAQ page, or drop us a line at dukegradunion@gmail.com. We also have several upcoming events, where you can meet us in person.

Ready to get involved? Sign a union authorization card or add your name to our public letter.

Interested in learning more about SEIU? Check out the websites of SEIU Graduate Workers Forward and the Duke Faculty Union.