Graduate students at Duke University will continue their fight for better working conditions and benefits this Friday with a rally led by the Duke Graduate Students Union (DGSU).
Union spokesperson Abraham Kenmore told the INDY students don’t have adequate dental care and are concerned about the school’s harassment and discrimination policies.
The union is asking for dental benefits equal to that enjoyed by other employees on campus, as well as eliminating insurance premiums and deductibles for grad workers.
“We’ve had a number of members who haven’t been able to afford emergency dental work,” Kenmore said, adding that in one case, a graduate student had to fly to Russia for a more affordable dental procedure.
The union also says the university’s harassment and discrimination policies don’t offer enough protection for students and want to require in-person harassment training for all Duke employees. They also want to establish sanctions that protect victims, rather than the university and create an unbiased, third-party grievance process for those who experience harassment or discrimination.
When students do submit grievances, Kenmore says tenured faculty and department heads are not disciplined enough.
“Duke’s process really doesn’t show a clear way,” said Kenmore. “It only protects for narrow bands of discrimination, without regarding wider power differentials between graduate workers and professors who are overseeing their labs and workplaces.”
Since 2017, the DGSU has been fighting for recognition as a union and a seat at the bargaining table with the university.
Though the National Labor Relations Board made a decision that gave graduate students the right to unionize in 2016, a proposal in September 2019 threatens to reverse the ruling. If approved it would take away the right for graduate and undergraduate students that are compensated by their university in any form to unionize.
“If Trump’s NLRB won’t protect these rights for us, then Duke should,” said Austin Waddle and Griffin Riddler in a Duke Chronicle op-ed earlier this month.
The rally will be held Friday at noon outside of the Allen Building on Duke’s West Campus. Along with announcing their demands, the DGSU will also deliver messages from graduate workers and allied labor organizations.