The following is a email I received from Anna M Flores Tamayo, a Texas adjunct. While the situation regarding getting unemployment pay is better here in California (we are entitled to it during Winter break and the Summer), the situation is a bit more sketchy in other states. At the same time, she also points that students need to be made aware that the large sums they’re doling out for tuition are not going to pay for high or in most cases, even adequate salaries for adjuncts.
My Dear Friends,
Many adjuncts cannot get unemployment benefits, not because we should not —as we have no reasonable assurance of work from semester to semester— but because universities arbitrarily decide it is not in their best interest to let us get such. But as an unemployed adjunct, I thought I was lucky for once. I receive a bit of pay every couple of weeks from Unemployment Insurance, even though that’s been cut now with this insane sequester. I still had to file for that little amount every two weeks, and I had to look for jobs constantly, even when there are no jobs to be had. It ran out too, so even though they make me —and every one of us— grovel each time to get a few more dollars, they tell us in the end there is no money to be had. I now have to wait until September 2014 to reapply, unless I get a job, of course. Can you see my future as an adjunct?
A few days before the end of the year, to boot, I got the shocking news that I would not collect the measly amount of unemployment for November I usually do get. So I called the folks at the unemployment office, and after waiting for what seemed an eternity, someone came on and told me I had lost that entire month because I had missed sending my claim in on time, due to the Thanksgiving holiday.
Now mind you, they never told me this on the phone; they thought it best to inform me that I would not be getting any money right before Christmas through a form letter (work for their government buddies). I called back when I received it, and of course I left a message once I finally got through to the other side. At first I sounded matter of fact, but as I went along my voice began to tremble and my anger at the injustice of a system that lets us absorb all the abuse began to crack and break, until I could hardly get my phone number out. At last I hung up, crying tears of frustration, realizing I would never be called before the New Year.
But for once I was actually surprised by one individual’s kindness. On December 31st, 2013, a compassionate man returned my call, most likely his last phone call of the day before calling it a year, probably after hearing an adjunct’s cry for help. He decided to show some mercy.
With that phone call, and with this New Year, 2014, things are beginning to change. I received November’s back pay. I have published a couple of articles in January concerning adjuncts, but more importantly, others are also publishing, getting their voices heard. My colleague Keith Hoeller from the west coast just published an important book, Equality for Contingent Faculty: Overcoming the Two-Tier System (http://www.vanderbilt.edu/university-press/book/9780826519504), while Jack Longmate & Frank Cosco’s excellent Program for Change is finally receiving the attention it deserves: http://vccfa.ca/newsite/?page_id=587. Another colleague in the east is uniting people together at universities in New York State through SEIU’s Adjunct Action. Colorado adjuncts have a good chance to pass the Equity Pay Bill 2014, HB 14-1154: https://sites.google.com/site/coloradoadjunctswiki/home/equal-pay-bill-2014. I wish all much success. In the south, I keep doing what I can to raise our voices high. Please check out all these links!
But this is what we must do, all of us: become aware, talk, write, expose Higher Ed, tell our students —whoever pays their education— that the money they are so dearly paying is not going to faculty; it is not going to teach students well. We must come out from the shadows, write our editorials, speak to our legislators, tell everyone and anyone who will listen. We must come together and fight back.
And in the meantime, sign and share my petition: http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/better-pay-for-adjuncts?mailing_id=18942&source=s.icn.em.cr&r_by=6358896. Keep making it grow. Tell everyone that our education is worth it, our future as knowledge seekers is worth it: we need everyone to stand with us. The dominoes are falling… let’s make them topple fast.
Ana M. Fores Tamayo
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/AdjunctJustice