A graduate student union will make Duke better

Thursday, January 26, 2017
The Chronicle

"Thanks to a hard fought, and well-deserved, ruling by the National Labor Relations Board handed down in August, Duke graduate students are working to unionize. While support among students appears to be strong on campus, the Duke administration is pushing back hard in an attempt to prevent the students from voting on whether or not to form a union. Now that’s not very democratic, is it? As an economist, I can confidently say that the benefits of unions range far and wide. As a former graduate student once covered by a union, I can say that the union greatly improved my role as a student, educator and worker.

"As a Postdoc here at Duke we are not covered under the current union drive. Nevertheless, the concerns of the graduate students here resonate with my recent experiences as a graduate student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst where I earned a Ph.D. in economics. During my time there I had the privilege to be in a union. The union provided us graduate students a collective voice at the table, a voice that empowered students to speak their minds, share their needs, and be heard by the University. Our union—the Graduate Employee Organization—was part of the UAW and worked for a long list of changes that improved my life as a graduate student worker, allowing me to focus on my role as a researcher and educator."

"During my tenure as a graduate student, we negotiated a new contract twice. This was not always easy, but it was a process well worth our time, and that of the administration. As graduate students, we advocated for, and won, things like child care services for graduate students with families, adequate dental and vision coverage, reduced class size for undergraduates and stipends in line with other universities of our stature," writes Mark Paul, Postdoctoral Associate at the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity. 

Read more: http://www.dukechronicle.com/article/2017/01/a-graduate-student-union-will-make-duke-better