A Message to Graduate Students from Dean Paula McClain

By | October 3, 2016

Dear students,

Thank you to those who came to our homecoming reception Friday night. It was great to celebrate the school’s 90th anniversary with you.

I have received questions from many of you about efforts on campus to form a union to represent graduate student assistants at Duke. Some of you have mentioned receiving or signing a card or petition but were not clear on what it meant.

By signing a union authorization card, you are authorizing a union to serve as your exclusive representative in negotiating your working terms and conditions. If union organizers obtain signed authorization cards from 30 percent or more of the targeted voting unit, they can petition the National Labor Relations Board to hold an election on whether to have a union at Duke. Since this is an important matter, I encourage you to educate yourself fully before deciding whether or not to sign a union authorization card.

Attached is a fact sheet with some questions and answers about the process and potential effects of seeking union representation. Please take a couple minutes to review and let me know if you have any questions.

Some have also asked about our position on the matter. The Graduate School has a history of working directly and collaboratively with our students to enhance support and benefits—parental leave, child care subsidies, expanded professional development, and more financial support, to name a few—and we continue to do so. We are proud of this partnership, and we feel that working through a union would create unnecessary constraints that could potentially detract from and delay future collaboration.

That said, I know that there are others who disagree. I encourage you to seek out information on this topic so you can make an educated choice. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact me directly if you have questions or concerns. Thank you.

Paula D. McClain, Ph.D.
Dean of The Graduate School and
Vice Provost for Graduate Education

Attachment: Union FAQ.