Militant Journalism

Duke University occupation confronts racism

Special to Liberation News from occupied Allen Building at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.

On April 1, Duke Students and Workers in Solidarity held a rally against institutional racism and the violation of workers’ rights on campus. This rally occurred after Duke Parking and Transportation administrators were all complicit  in a series of violent actions against their employees.

The most egregious is a 2014 incident in which a Black woman worker was hit by the car of the Executive Vice President of Duke University, Tallman Trask. He drove away without offering assistance after yelling a racial slur at the employee.

The rally has taken a historical significant turn as 12 Duke students have begun the occupation of Duke’s administrative building–the Allen building–until seven demands are met related to workers’ rights on campus and the incident in question.

This is the first major activism-driven takeover of the Allen building since the 1969 takeover that demanded racial justice for Black Duke students, staff and faculty. The occupation of Allen building will continue until the following demands are met:

1. We demand the immediate termination, without compensation, of EVP Tallman Trask III, VP Kyle Cavanaugh, and PTS Director Carl DePinto.

2. We demand that Tallman Trask issue a public apology to Ms. Underwood, all former and current PTS employees who have suffered racist abuse, and all of Duke and Durham’s community for his hateful, violent, and negligent actions.

3. We demand that Tallman Trask pay full legal and medical reparations to Ms. Underwood.

4. We demand that Duke University hire competent, outside employment counsel, approved by Duke Students and Workers in Solidarity, to conduct a full investigation into Parking and Transportation Services, the Office of Institutional Equity, and the Duke University Police Department in regards to their respective handling of Ms. Underwood’s case, as well as the unlawful discrimination complaints and reports filed by former and current PTS employees. Said counsel is to have no pre-existing relationship with Duke University, Duke University personnel, administrators, or board of trustees.

5. We demand a comprehensive and transparent review and revision of Duke’s employment standards and guidelines for sub-contracted workers, to ensure that they match the employment standards for Duke employees.

6. We demand transparency and community input in the recruitment and selection process for Duke administrators.

7. We demand that the minimum wage for Duke employees and sub-contracted workers be raised to $15/hour and for this rate to be indexed to keep up with inflation. This pay rate is closer to a living wage that strengthens their ability to meet their basic needs with dignity. Every worker deserves to be paid a fair wage and provided with the ability to make a decent living.

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