Most non-tenure track faculty at Duke University decided to join Service Employees International Union by a vote of 174 to 29 on Friday.
Speakers included Duke students, UNC faculty, Durham City Council members and labor activists in local child care and food service industries.
Jennifer Bowles, Duke lecturing fellow, said the diversity reflects a broader movement.
“Not only are we working on the crisis in higher education, we’re working on the race to the bottom in general,” she said.
“The same forces that lead to increasingly bad conditions for faculty are the same conditions that also keep fast food workers making $9 an hour.”
Duke’s unionizing efforts aren’t just about wages, but benefits and job security, said Nancy Fisher, chairperson of UNC Fixed-Term Faculty Committee.
“One of the underlying animals in all of this is that as a single entity negotiating with one’s department chair, if you speak out then you put yourself at risk for not getting renewed,” she said.
Bowles said Duke’s provost responded to the faculty’s movement by hiring a union-busting law firm and instead urged direct engagement between faculty and administration.