Frequently Asked Questions

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+ What is DGSU?

The Duke Graduate Student Union is an independent organization of graduate workers at Duke University. We are an “open-membership” or “minority” union: Duke University will not bargain with us, so we advocate for ourselves with campaigns, tactics, and resources that we build ourselves. We formed during the summer of 2016, and formalized our status and affiliation with SEIU in the spring of 2017. We are Local 27 of the Southern Region Workers United SEIU.

We acknowledge and embrace that in our role as teachers and researchers, we are performing valuable work for the university. We stand in solidarity with other workers who are fighting for better conditions and the respect they deserve. We imagine a better university, and are organizing for the power to build it.

We believe that all graduate student workers deserve contract and workplace protections, fair and transparent compensation for work, and reliable and affordable healthcare access.

+ Who is in charge of DGSU?

The members run the union. As per our constitution, the General Body holds all decision-making power. Representatives to the Graduate Workers Council, DGSU’s representative central body, hold any additional responsibilities delegated to them by the General Body.

As an organizing committee we voted to affiliate with SEIU, which provides more organizing and legal resources, access to training events and conferences with other union leaders, and places us in a much larger network of active unions.

+ Why do we have to pay dues?

Paying dues provides our union financial resources with which we can pursue campaigns, spread our message, hold events for our members, and participate in actions with other workers. Just as importantly, paying dues is an important indication of graduate workers’ commitment to participate in the union.

+ What is the difference between DGSU and GPSC?

We are excited to work hand-in-hand with GPSC to achieve our common goals, but there are some important distinctions between the organizations. DGSU is a labor union, so our primary role is to advocate for better conditions for graduate student workers on campus. GPSC is a student government organization that operates at the pleasure of Duke University and mostly serves in an advisory capacity to the university and to distribute funds to other student groups. Departments elect voting representatives to GPSC who then vote on issues that are proposed, while DGSU gives an equal vote to every member of the General Body. DGSU is self-funded so our resources are contingent on our ability to organize students, not the whims of our employer. GPSC’s funding is drawn from student fees, so ultimately Duke University controls its access to resources. As a certified student group, GPSC is also subject to the university code of conduct; DGSU is not. Universities can use their code of conduct to suppress certain forms of expression (like protest) on campus. As an independent voice and dedicated labor union, we have more freedom to pursue our campaigns as we see fit, while GPSC operates within the parameters assigned by Duke.

+ How can the DGSU help international students?

If you are an international student, click here to read about what DGSU can do for you and to learn about how to get involved with the union.