The Guardian tells us that academics in the US have taken to sleeping in their cars, even to indulging in sex work, in order to keep body and soul together. At which point we should marvel at the effects of a truly unionised workforce:
There is nothing she would rather do than teach. But after supplementing her career with tutoring and proofreading, the university lecturer decided to go to remarkable lengths to make her career financially viable.
She first opted for her side gig during a particularly rough patch, several years ago, when her course load was suddenly cut in half and her income plunged, putting her on the brink of eviction. “In my mind I was like, I’ve had one-night stands, how bad can it be?” she said. “And it wasn’t that bad.”
The wry but weary-sounding middle-aged woman, who lives in a large US city and asked to remain anonymous to protect her reputation, is an adjunct instructor, meaning she is not a full-time faculty member at any one institution and strings together a living by teaching individual courses, in her case at multiple colleges.
Adjuncts, of course, are not unionised. But their pay and conditions are caused by unionisation all the same. American academe, for those who gain tenure, is a very comfy gig indeed. Other than forcing oneself upon a student in the quad it's difficult to get fired and while the salary is middling for the professions the working hours and pensions are just great. And the best way to think about tenure is that it is acceptance into a very strong union indeed.
American colleges are not cheap, as we all know, and all the revenue is sucked up by those very well protected and comfy tenured academics and the administrators. Leaving near nothing left over for those adjuncts who carry an ever increasing part of the teaching load.
And why is it that the adjuncts are an ever increasing part? Because the employment of those permanent staff is so expensive given their unionisation. Further, this is what always does happen. Unions benefit those on the inside at the expense of those outside.
American colleges already cost as much as anyone will pay for them. The only solution to the adjuncts' problem is that those in the union get less so they can have more. And, of course, Good Luck with that.