From The Guardian:
I receive no benefits, no office, no phone or stipend for the basic communication demands of teaching. I keep constant tabs on the media I use in my classes; if I exhaust my own 10GB monthly data plan early, I lose vital time for online discussions with my students. This, although the university requires my students to engage in discussions about legal issues and ethics six days a week, and I must guide as well as grade these discussions.
Three of my Philadelphia-area friends are adjuncts with doctorate degrees. One keeps moving to other states for temporary teaching posts. The others teach at multiple sites to keep afloat financially – one at no less than seven colleges and universities.
Having heard all my life about solid “government job” benefits, I figured I might have more stability, and still be able to handle teaching, if I worked for the Post Office. I started carrying mail in early January. As a City Carrier Assistant, I earned less pay than regular postal carriers do, though I did more than “assist”: my job was to handle absentee carriers’ routes. I had no medical insurance, no sick leave allowance and had to agree to work as much as managers deemed necessary for 360 consecutive days (whereupon I could sign up for a second 360-day contract, with no promise that it would bring me any closer to a permanent job offer). I worked on Sundays too, under the US Postal Service’s contract with Amazon.com. With human flaws – I fell on ice more than once – I was no match for the drones Amazon intends to deploy. After two months on the job, which was long enough to develop a lifetime fear of Rottweilers, I was behind in my university work. I turned in my cap.
In late March, I started a retail job. It offers real days off, and I expect to be eligible for health and dental benefits soon.
Last week, a friend came in to shop, saw me, and exclaimed, loud enough for all to hear: “What are you doing here?” Friends who know I hold two law degrees and teach at a university can’t fathom that my teaching doesn’t cover rent. Some writers have discussed adjuncts waiting tables or bagging groceries alongside their students as though it’s the ultimate degradation. I see things differently. I’m trained by the people who deliver parcels, serve meals and bag groceries and who might, any day, apply to take my courses. I am their equal, and I know it at a level most established faculty members do not.