DGSU State of the Union

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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.

In solidarity,
Laura Bellows, Public Policy
Chase Gregory, Literature
Chris Huebner, English
Danica Schaffer-Smith, Environment

On behalf of the Duke Graduate Students Union