If your illustrious adjunct career is anything like mine, midterm is about the time you start thinking about the plan for next semester's cookie money. After 15+ years of never even thinking about claiming unemployment benefits, last year at this time I gave it serious thought. I even attended classes for Michigan's "No Worker Left Behind" program, but it soon became clear that the money in that program was intended for those who need to attend the types of classes I usually teach! I looked at ways I could approach this fleeting opportunity for a grant of $10,000 over 2 years of schooling, but nothing that looked good to me fit the program parameters well enough. Besides, a last minute class assignment surfaced that put me squarely back on the adjunct hamster wheel of life for at least another few laps.
Even so, I know the day may come (and with today's economy and the troubles in Higher Ed staffing, it may come soon) when I have to swallow my pride and apply for unemployment benefits. The good news is, according to the feedback some of you have given on this page--and a document I'd recommend to all (link to come), I can finally state with certainty that it is possible to get unemployment benefits as an adjunct!
COCAL (The Chicago Coalition on Contingent Academic Labor) offers a very helpful guide for this process, entitled "Access to Unemployment Insurance Benefits for Contingent Faculty," by Joe Berry, Beverly Stewart and Helena Worthen. The guide gives you precise language to use when speaking about your reasons for applying, how to handle your employers' inevitable attempt to challenge your claims by saying you have "reasonable assurance of reemployment," and so on. The truth is, by definition, adjuncts are CONTINGENT workers, which means there is no reasonable assurance of anything! We serve at the pleasure of a lot of ifs, ands, and buts, (as my mother would say), so never fear...we have a case!
According to the guide, however, there are good, better and best ways to go about applying, if you must. I recommend reading this guide thoroughly before launching your effort...and please share your results with other adjuncts (and me!) if you do go through the process!
I think we need to stick together on this issue and at least, get informed of what our rights are. Then, stepping up and exercising these rights might help establish us as a cohesive group of academic workers with special working conditions and needs--who deserve the same safety net offered to other American workers! Let me know what you think, please!