Petition to Raise Graduate Worker Pay to $15/hour
We are members of the Duke and Durham communities committed to the fair treatment and pay of graduate student workers. We are calling on the Duke University Graduate School to increase the minimum pay for all graduate student workers to $15/hour in line with the university’s commitment to becoming a $15/hour campus.

This summer, Duke announced a campus-wide minimum wage increase to $15/hour by July 2019. The announcement was the result of the national Fight for $15 campaign demanding $15/hour and union rights for all workers. We applaud Duke’s decision to increase wages, and particularly Duke President Vincent Price’s stated “commitment to providing a total compensation package... [that] starts with pay, but also includes benefits such as health insurance, retirement, and paid time away.”

We ask that Duke extend its campus-wide minimum wage increase to include the 2,500 graduate student workers on campus. For Ph.D. students who work as teaching and research assistants, a $15/hour wage floor would amount to a minimum yearly salary of $31,200. In addition, we ask Duke to do the following:

— shift the funding cycle to a 12-month pay structure so that all graduate student workers make a living wage 12 months out of the year;
— shift the funding cycle to begin in August to match the academic calendar and avoid unnecessary hardship for both incoming and continuing students;
— provide a $1000 relocation stipend to each incoming graduate student worker.

Graduate workers perform essential labor for the University. And yet, stipend amounts for Ph.D. students remain low — usually around $22,000 a year. These stipends have not increased to meet rising costs of living, nor are they disbursed each month, leaving many with pay gaps throughout the year. Moreover, first-year Ph.D. students often do not receive their first paycheck until long after they have relocated to Durham. Low and untimely pay make it difficult for many graduate student workers — especially those with dependents, large student loan debts, and/or chronic medical conditions — to get by and finish their degrees on time. This is unacceptable.

In September, Vincent Price told employees in an email that “Our goal always is for Duke to be the best place to work in North Carolina.” This is an admirable goal, and one we share. To meet it, Duke should increase the minimum wage of all workers on campus, including graduate student workers.

Sign below if you support paying Duke graduate workers $15/hour!

For more information or to get more involved, contact the Duke Graduate Students Union at

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