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 dukegradunion@gmail.com.

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