How about a little labor blogging for Labor Day (as I have to work anyway)*? There’s a vivid, but not exactly groundbreaking essay on the adjunct life up at the Chronicle now. [OK, the idea of people sharing your office selling your texts to used book buyers was new to me, but certainly the overall picture wasn’t.]
As sad as this familiar story is, to me the saddest part was the author’s proposed solution:
We teach for many reasons, but if we are unable to find employment that can support us, we shouldn’t teach. Perhaps if many adjuncts left the industry, withholding the labor supply that keeps demand low, and wages even lower, the goal of a living wage would be achieved by the resolute union reps in perpetual negotiations for the next contract.
Whoa! I think he skipped a step! How many adjunct unions are there in the country? I’d be surprised if I needed more than one hand in order to count them. Yet this guy wants people to leave academia to let these organizations grow like mushrooms from spores on wet ground? “Don’t mourn, organize,” said Joe Hill.
Just the other day I was having a friendly difference of opinion with an AAUP colleague over where an organizing drive on any campus should start. He said tenured faculty, but this is precisely why I say adjuncts. They have much less to lose. As much as I like to complain about my job (especially when I’m teaching on Labor Day), it’s still a pretty good gig as far as most jobs in America go. Teaching while on Food Stamps, however, is anything but. Like Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, a revolution is justified only after a long train of abuses and nobody in academia gets more abused than contingent faculty. The willingness to pack it all in would be like freedom during an organizing campaign.
If you don’t fix the problem before you leave academia, the problem won’t fix itself. Organizing is hard work, you know.
* I could explain why me and the rest of my university are on campus today, working on a federal holiday, but you’d die of boredom.