Dear members and supporters,
On June 27, the Supreme Court ruled against union power in the Janus vs. AFSCME case. This ruling rolls back decades of the fight for worker rights. Nationwide, public sector workers protected by union benefits like collective bargaining, contracts, and representation may choose to not pay their fair share of union dues. Janus is a shameless ruling that attempts to weaken unions from above by making all public employees “right-to-work.”
SEIU-Duke Graduate Students Union affirms our pledge that we will not allow this ruling to weaken our union. North Carolina workers have been fighting against this same legislation in our home state since 1947. Despite facing these attacks for over 70 years, unions that do and do not have the right to collective bargaining have organized and won for workers’ rights and safety:
- SEIU-DGSU celebrated its first academic year with direct-join dues-paying membership;
- SEIU-Duke Faculty Union celebrated their first contract;
- AFSCME-Local 77 of Duke campus workers celebrated a victory when Duke promised to pay campus workers $15/hour by 2019, a fight for fair wages that the union began in 1965;
- Graduate students and campus workers formed a chapter of UE Local 150-UNC Chapel Hill;
- 20,000 people joined the NC and Durham Association of Educators to march on the state General Assembly for teachers and students;
- Fast food workers in Fight For 15 organized the south for $15/hour for all workers;
- The Durham Workers Assembly has brought together unions and workers from across Durham in a united fight for fair wages, benefits, and treatment for all workers.
The list of successes could go on! Workers across NC have proven time and again that we can come out triumphant despite continued attacks on our jobs, our communities, and our livelihoods.
Now, in the face of the Supreme Court’s Janus ruling, we have the responsibility to show the nation that our resistance moves forward. Even without the right to fairly negotiate a contract with Duke University, SEIU-DGSU continues to win rights for graduate student-workers. Our members secured coverage for sixth-year continuation fees; gym access after our third year; peer representatives to assist navigating sexual violence reporting; longer parental leave; and protections for student healthcare. The Janus ruling is a blow to labor rights, but workers in SEIU-DGSU and across the country are already using nontraditional union models to mobilize and fight for what we need!
We can’t stop now. Members and supporters, we ask you to show your commitment to our pledge. Post this image (also linked below) on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram from Monday, 7/9 to Friday, 7/13. Remember to use these hashtags-- #UnionStrong #Union #Janus--and tag @DukeGradUnion. Let’s spread the word that we will not stand for Janus!
If you are not yet a member, sign up now! Follow this link to join SEIU-DGSU today!
In love and solidarity,
Jessica Gokhberg, GWC Representative, Working Group on Harassment and Discrimination
Hannah Rogers, Director of Communications
Matthew Taft, GWC Representative,
Katya Gorecki, Co-Chair
Jess Issacharoff, Co-Chair
Chase Gregory, Communications Committee
Jessica Covil, Communications Committee
Ajenai Clemmons, Working Group on Harassment and Discrimination
In April, DGSU students protested Duke's treatment of graduate teachers and researchers by creating posters highlighting what the University "owed" them. Pictures are below!
Check out our timeline about the history of labor at Duke University!
Today was the day when Your Intrepid Reporter just about slept with the fishes. Instead, because of an 18-inch thick pane of acrylic, Your Intrepid Reporter was simply able to walk through the Georgia Aquarium and enjoy the sea turtles, otters, Beluga whales, sea lions and whale sharks.
The final day of the SEIU Southern Region Conference began with a review of the Southern Region’s financial report. Your Intrepid Reporter’s report on the financial report is this: it was reported. The session ended with the distribution of various awards given to locals for reaching membership and membership growth goals and for locals that were able to hit targets for participation in PAC contributions. DGSU members accepted a pair of awards that were earned by the Duke Faculty Union for raising money for PAC contributions from over 30% of its members.
At the conclusion of the session, Your Intrepid Reporter travelled to Downtown Atlanta to visit the Georgia Aquarium, and it was there – dear reader, it was! – where Your Intrepid Reporter saw so many wondrous sea creatures and marine wildlife et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. And what a wondrous sight it was!
Dear reader, Your Intrepid Reporter was just about bowled right over by the day that Your Intrepid Reporter just experienced.
The day began as if beneath a dark storm cloud, when – after the Invocation was delivered – SEIU’s Southern Region Director Harris Raynor invoked the looming threat to labor that is represented by the presidential administration currently ruling this fine nation.
But, fret not, for the day brightened immediately, dear reader. Fret not!
With a series of exultations of their many victories, SEIU members from Locals across the Southern Region beat away (in splendid fashion) the storm clouds which hover so menacingly on the horizon. Your Intrepid Reporters heard about workers who were able to negotiate for raises, increased bereavement periods for extended family, better health and dental insurance and so many great benefits for themselves and their coworkers. Your Intrepid Reporter also heard a number of stories from members of locals who were successful in recruiting new members, organizing and fighting against illegal decertification orchestrated by the companies they work for.
The middle of Your Intrepid Reporter’s day was occupied by a pair of workshops that focused on strategies for organizing new members and engaging them with political actions. During these workshops, Your Intrepid Reporter learned about the importance of holding orientations for new coworkers in order to teach others about the benefits of union membership. For graduate students at Duke, this stresses the importance of the Disorientation week that takes place during the early weeks of each fall semester.
In the afternoon, Your Intrepid Reporter attended the America Needs Unions Town Hall Meeting, which featured Georgia State Senator Nan Orrock and Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, who is currently running for governor of Georgia. During the town hall, Senator Orrock and Leader Abrams fielded questions from members from locals around the Southern Region. Questions ranged from topics like how Leader Abrams and Senator Orrock plan to improve Georgia’s healthcare system to what they both would do for the state’s homeless population. Repeatedly, both Leader Abrams and Senator Orrock continued to pledge their support for the labor movement. In response to a question asked by Emory Unite member Jonathan Basile, both Leader Abrams and Senator Orrock spoke in support of efforts by graduate researchers and educators to organize and unionize on public and private college campuses.
After the invigorating day, Your Intrepid Reporter took a quick break before traveling to Atlanta’s R. Thomas Deluxe Grill to visit with tropical birds and enjoy a great meal with friends from DGSU and Emory Unite. Then Your Intrepid Reporter returned to the SEIU Southern Region Conference and danced until the weary heart within Your Intrepid Reporter’s chest just about exploded.
Dear reader, it was a battle of wills, this drive down to Atlanta for the SEIU Southern Region Conference. A battle of the elements that pitted Your Intrepid Reporter against all of Nature’s furious wrath at once and altogether. A storm was brewing, blowing debris – chunks of wood, bits of leaves and grass – and the howl of the wind could be heard even through the closed windows of Your Intrepid Reporter's very own car!
Yes, dear reader, it was a trying situation, a terrifying scene indeed. But, dear reader, fret not! For just at the moment when the storm hit – just as the heavens opened up and gallon upon gallon of water lashed the windshield of Your Intrepid Reporter's very own car – dear reader, do you know what happened?
But only guess!
Could you only guess what song came playing next upon the shuffled Spotify playlist constructed by Your Intrepid Reporter, but Cher’s 1998 groundbreaking hit, the earliest example of a song using autotuned vocals to reach the highest heights of Billboard’s charts and be announced by the late and great Casey Kasem as the Number One of America’s Top 40? Dear reader, do you know? Do you know, dear reader?
“Believe” was the song that came upon the speakers of Your Intrepid Reporter’s very own car, while the wind howled and the rain lashed against the windshield and the tumultuous storm of fury and fiendish passion occluded all existence of the outside world, making it seem as if not even the world around Your Intrepid Reporter ever existed, as if all and everything were washed away by a menacing cloud of spray and wind and fog.
Believe! Dear reader! From the Grammy-winning album of the very same name!
And so, dear reader, Your Intrepid Reporter did believe and sang along with Cher and slowed the car down and got off the highway and stopped at an eerily abandoned Dunkin Donuts (a sugary waystation well known to wary westward travelers). Once the storm passed, Your Intrepid Reporter bravely returned to the highway and completed their journey to Atlanta to attend the SEIU Southern Region Conference.
Stay tuned for further dispatches from Your Intrepid Reporter about just what is happening at the SEIU Southern Region Conference in Atlanta!
Dear fellow graduate workers,
This past year, the Duke Graduate Students Union formed as a direct join-direct action union, with voluntary membership and an immediate say over what issues matter to us most. We are proud to have joined together as Local 27 of SEIU’s Southern Region Workers United!
As the school year comes to a close, you might be wondering: what has DGSU been up to? This past fall semester, our members took arrest in the effort to shut down the federal tax bill provisions that threatened to tax our tuition waivers as income and make graduate education inaccessible for all but the independently wealthy. Soon after, when the Duke administration considered dropping dependent care and adding a deductible to the student health insurance plan, DGSU showed up in force at a public forum to oppose such changes and continued to pressure the administration by meeting with the Student Health Insurance Advisory Committee. Through our sustained efforts, we protected our current insurance benefits — including dependent coverage — and ensured that the Graduate School would cover premium increases for graduate students in years 1-6. After uniting with Durham Fight for $15 to make Duke a $15/hour campus, we’ve spent spring semester pressuring Duke to make good on that promise for all workers, including graduate students, whose annual income is often well below a living wage. DGSU has also joined with graduate workers across the country to fight harassment and discrimination on campus by providing resources and assistance to our peers. Between these and other efforts, DGSU has been busy fighting and winning for all Duke graduate workers. To learn more or to get involved, check out what our Pay Regularity, Continuation Fees, Healthcare and Harassment and Discrimination working groups are up to!
To strengthen DGSU’s efforts now and in the future, we ratified a constitution and elected union officers, formalizing our internal leadership and membership accountability. In the coming year, our first cohort of Departmental Stewards will communicate the needs of graduate students across university disciplines to DGSU to ensure that the union is serving all of our members. These structures will enable membership to grow, making our union stronger and more representative of all Duke graduate students workers.
This year has been one of transition, institution-building and many wins on behalf of Duke graduate workers. We’ve established relationships with other unions in Durham and across the country as part of a national movement organizing higher education. As a direct join-direct action union, we are both part of a long history of labor organizing outside the strictures of the National Labor Relations Act and at the forefront of the contemporary labor movement in this country. Specifically, we act in solidarity with other unions in the right-to-work South who have been fighting and winning without the guarantee of collective bargaining. As part of the Service Employees International Union, we are united with two million workers taking a stand for fair treatment and better conditions. In the words of SEIU President Mary Kay Henry, DGSU is “a glimpse into the future of the labor movement.”
DGSU is only as strong as its membership. Join us in fighting for a better Duke and become a member today.
Laura Bellows, Public Policy
Chase Gregory, Literature
Chris Huebner, English
Danica Schaffer-Smith, Environment
On behalf of the Duke Graduate Students Union