Dear Duke community,
Last week marked a historic victory for the Duke Graduate Students Union, SEIU Workers United Southern Region Local 27. We’ve been fighting for over a year to force Duke to guarantee a 12-month living stipend for all grad workers. After months of meeting with the Academic Council, collecting petition signatures, writing op-eds, securing a GPSC resolution, and applying public pressure, the Graduate School buckled and agreed to pay Ph.D. students a 12-month living wage. This enormous victory will put thousands of dollars in the pockets of grad workers. It’s a testament to the power of our union—and unions everywhere!
Make no mistake: Duke would never have announced this change had it not been for the tireless organizing of Duke grad workers. Gains often feel inevitable after we win them, but nothing about this gain was inevitable. A year ago, a commitment from university administrators to meet our demands seemed unfathomable. Now, 12-month pay starting in August at a living wage is a reality. This only happened because grad workers mobilized, built power, and made it a reality!
Duke’s announced changes are far from perfect. The pay increase won’t take effect until 2022, excluding Ph.D. students with bills to pay now. It also threatens to make departments choose between a living wage for grad workers and crucial components of doctoral education like cohort size. But if we can pressure Duke to commit to a living wage, we can get them to move on a faster timeline and without such unfair trade-offs. It’s our job to organize so that every PhD student can live decently while at Duke!
We’ve proven we can make that happen. And with your help, we’re going to make it happen.
Join us this Thursday, April 18, from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Abele Quad for “Pay-Ville” (like K-Ville—get it?). You’re invited to help us celebrate our union’s power and continue the struggle!
Hannah Borenstein, third year Ph.D. student in cultural anthropology
Jarron Bowman, fifth year Ph.D. student in sociology
Sage Lachman, first year Ph.D. student in clinical psychology
Austin Wadle, first year Ph.D. student in civil and environmental engineering
Members of the Duke Graduate Students Union (SEIU Workers United Southern Region Local 27)
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