In late 2016, adjunct faculty at Duke voted to be represented by the Service Employees International Union in collective bargaining negotiations. Less than a year later, the Duke Faculty Union reached an agreement with the University to improve working conditions.  

The union includes approximately 275 non-regular-rank, non-tenure-track faculty from the Trinity College of Arts and Sciences, the Center for Documentary Studies and the Graduate School. The unionization push drew support from prominent figures, including mayor pro tempore Jillian Johnson, Trinity ’03. 

After the successful vote, the union spent about a year negotiating with the University. Sticking points included getting teachers access to laptops and office space, as well as giving faculty members a better way to address discrimination and ensure academic freedom. 

In July 2017, the union finalized a tentative agreement with the University, which was ratified in August. In a letter to the union’s members, its negotiating committee celebrated agreements on issues like compensation, course assignments and grievance procedures. 

“With the contract, everyone in our bargaining unit will receive a pay increase. Many people will receive longer contracts,” the letter reads. 

The contract lasts for three years, at which point it could be renewed or negotiations could begin anew.

Editor's note: This profile is part of our new initiative called The Chronicle 18. We are highlighting 18 people and groups who are defining what it means to be at Duke this year. Read about the project and more of our selections.