Tag Archives: contingent work


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by Brian Halpin

As I walk up to the time clock to punch out for the day, I glance at the kitchen schedule posted next to the time clock. I notice that my shift times (as well as those of my coworkers) for all of the shifts for Friday through Sunday are missing actual times. Instead I see the word “event” or a question mark inserted as a placeholder. My coworker Josúe makes a comment as he punches his time card. “What the hell, it’s Wednesday. Michael [the kitchen manager] better fucking have my times up tomorrow [for the weekend] an’ he better not cut me on Sunday like he did last week.” As I look to see if I have any days scheduled for the following week, I notice the type in bold across the bottom of the schedule “SUBJECT TO CHANGE WITHOUT NOTICE.” Just-in-time scheduling, work hours irregularity, and cutting workers without notice are business as usual at California Catering where workers are subject to erratic and unpredictable scheduling manipulation.

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Northeastern University adjuncts organized successfully on their own behalf.

Northeastern University adjuncts organized successfully on their own behalf.

There’s a great deal of discussion about the “corporatization” of the university, or about “academic capitalism,” and the infusion of market logics into higher education. Much of this literature has followed the money and –reasonably enough— emphasized the growing academic effort to capture commercially lucrative knowledge, large public grants, or tuition dollars. I myself have contributed to this literature, however modestly. But because I have also held administrative positions, I have access to at least some inside knowledge about the “corporatization” of the academy. And this more experiential form of data convinces me that the study of higher education has been somewhat one-sided, in that it has ignored important changes in budget and accounting systems within the academy (such as “resource-centered management”), or the spread of marketing and institutional “branding,” which have powerfully infused market logics into many leading American universities. Another issue that warrants much closer attention than it has received is what we might call (however inelegantly) the “adjunctification” of the professoriat.

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The Rise of the Permanent Temp Economy

By Erin Hatton

(This article was originally published in the New York Times. The original version can be read here:

Kelly girl

Politicians across the political spectrum herald “job creation,” but frightfully few of them talk about what kinds of jobs are being created. Yet this clearly matters: According to the Census Bureau, one-third of adults who live in poverty are working but do not earn enough to support themselves and their families.

A quarter of jobs in America pay below the federal poverty line for a family of four ($23,050). Not only are many jobs low-wage, they are also temporary and insecure. Over the last three years, the temp industry added more jobs in the United States than any other, according to the American Staffing Association, the trade group representing temp recruitment agencies, outsourcing specialists and the like.

Low-wage, temporary jobs have become so widespread that they threaten to become the norm. But for some reason this isn’t causing a scandal. At least in the business press, we are more likely to hear plaudits for “lean and mean” companies than angst about the changing nature of work for ordinary Americans.

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