North Carolina Piedmont Democratic Socialists of America stands in solidarity with the non-tenure-track faculty and graduate students at Duke University in their fight for fair wages, fair benefits, and fair working conditions through their unions, Duke Teaching First and the Duke Graduate Students Union.
Universities across the country are increasingly running themselves like businesses rather than educational institutions, and Duke is no exception. Graduate students and contingent faculty perform a growing share of the university’s work, allowing Duke to drive down its labor costs, increase its administrative budgets, and invest in new centers and projects that appeal to corporate donors.
Because Duke plays such a prominent role in the local economy, these issues cause reverberations throughout the Triangle. By failing to support graduate students and contingent faculty, Duke creates yet another barrier to graduate school and academic jobs for those who aren’t already wealthy. It furthers economic inequality by ensuring top administrators and major donors benefit more than the rest of the community. And it drives down wages and increases job requirements outside the university as PhDs and graduate students are forced to take on side jobs to make ends meet. The university has been quick to highlight its impact when it garners positive PR and increased influence in development projects, so we must hold it to that role when it comes to the university’s treatment of its employees, and the effect that treatment has on the community.
We support Duke Teaching First and the Duke Graduate Students Union because all people deserve a voice in their own lives, including within the workplace. And we support them because building union power among workers at the area’s largest employers will pave the way for additional victories for all workers—inside and outside of academia.