Skip to main content

Duke faculty file for a union

Jeremy Sprinkle
Social share icons

Non-tenure track faculty join national movement to raise standards, pay

Less than a month after the federal government reported an increase in union membership in North Carolina and other southern states last year, non-tenured faculty at Duke University filed for a union of their own.

From the News & Observer:

Adjunct faculty members at Duke University have filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board to hold an election on whether to unionize.

The petition was filed Thursday, showing that at least 30 percent of employees in the group support the effort. For months, a group called Duke Teaching First has discussed the idea of a union to improve pay, benefits and job security for part-time and non-tenure track faculty.

“I just feel as though it’s a historic moment,” said M.J. Sharp, who teaches photography at Duke’s Center for Documentary Studies. “We just can’t let it keep going along like this.”

Sharp, who has taught at Duke for three years, said she feels supported by her colleagues, but many others aren’t in such a good position. She said the growing non-tenure track faculty across the nation constitute a “massive, permanent underclass.”

“Academia has been trying to solve itself for 20 years, and nothing really happens,” she said. “For those of us who’ve been watching, we know that more good intentions will get us nowhere.”

Read more: Duke adjunct faculty members file notice of union election | News & Observer

Faculty at @DukeU filed for a union today!

— Faculty Forward NC (@NCFaculty) February 11, 2016

Christopher Shreve, a biology instructor at Duke, announced the filing in an email to supporters:

As non-tenure track faculty, we are excited to let you know that we are one step closer to forming our union at Duke. This morning, we filed our petition with the National Labor Relations Board to join SEIU Faculty Forward.

This is a significant moment in our campaign, and we know we didn't get here alone. Thank you for all you have done to support Duke Teaching First! Together, we can make Duke better for all faculty, students, and community members.

The outpouring of support from the greater Duke community has been tremendous. Students have hosted speak-outs and petitioned the administration to affirm our right to organize freely. Faith organizations, neighborhood organizations, and public officials have shared statements of support. Durham residents have put up hundreds of yard signs and packed community meetings.

Help celebrate our progress by sharing our post on Facebook, or retweeting our message on Twitter.

We look forward to continuing to work with you to make Duke a better place for everyone.

Follow Duke Teaching First on Facebook and NC Faculty Forward on Twitter.

"If the Duke campaign is successful," said SEIU Faculty Forward in a blog post, "it will join dozens of universities whose faculty have have become members of Faculty Forward in the past three years."

Several schools — including the University of Southern California, the University of Chicago, Brandeis University and Loyola University of Chicago — have voted to form unions with SEIU since early December.

Learn more about SEIU Faculty Forward.