*This is a speech I gave at the victory rally for the Duke Faculty Union organizing drive on March 21st, 2016*
This is an amazing victory for Duke, for Durham, for North Carolina, for the union movement in the South, and for all of us here today. As an undergraduate here at Duke, some of my best classes were taught by contingent faculty, including an excellent public policy course taught by Steve Schewel, who is now, of course, my colleague on city council. Since I left Duke 12 years ago, the number of contingent faculty here
and at schools around the country has continued to grow, and this crisis for higher education has grown more acute.
Unions and other representative worker organizations are the primary vehicle for democratizing the workplace – for actualizing the collective power of workers – for leveling the playing field between workers and their employers – for giving workers the power to make the best decisions for themselves and their institutions. When workers have a say in the decisions that affect their lives, our institutions are stronger, our communities are stronger, and meaningful change can happen from the bottom-up.
Duke is the largest employer in Durham and that relationship is critical to the success of Duke and the success of our city. When more people who work for Duke have living wages and job security and the ability to build their lives here in Durham, that’s good news for our city. Better working conditions at Duke is good for Durham. Better wages at Duke is good for Durham. More democracy at Duke is good for Durham.
I am so excited about this victory and I hope that we can leverage this energy and this accomplishment into more fights for regular rank faculty, graduate students, staff, AND contractors, here at Duke and at other universities and all workplaces and throughout the southeast and the country and the WORLD.
Thank you all for the incredible work you did to make this happen, and I am so glad to stand here in solidarity with you, as a Duke alum and a city council member, celebrating your decision to organize and raise a collective voice. Thank you for being relentless and fearless and for blazing this trail for us all.