I did something today I hadn’t done in more than 25 years. I filed for unemployment.
When I was a steelworker, I would usually get laid off during the winter. The more seniority I got, the less time I’d spend on the dole, which was kinda sad, because as part of our union contract with the company, we got supplementary unemployment benefits. The result was that I made almost as much when I wasn’t working as I did when I was working … and I don’t like to work.
I’ve been “out of work” a couple of times since my steelworker days, but never in a way that made me consider unemployment. I spent several years as a student, of course, and then I was a graduate student instructor, and then I entered my Adjunct Faculty period. Starting around 2000, I’d fade in and out of jobs … when I left Cal in 2000, thinking I would start my early retirement, I got asked to teach a semester at San Francisco State. After that, my sister got me online classes at American River College, and I taught them regularly, except for the year I returned to Cal as a Mass Comm professor/advisor, and one other semester when I taught at SF State again. I taught summer school at ARC as well, except when we took vacations in Spain.
But … well, I imagine you’ve heard, there’s an economic crisis, it has hit California especially hard, and there are severe cuts in the education budget. Online classes are popular these days, but they also have a higher drop rate than other classes … I’d start with 28 students per class and end up with 13, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t because I was a bad teacher, everyone had the same experience. So those were among the first classes to get cut in the English Department, leaving me without a job or classes to attend or any of those things people to, for the first time since 1984.
I am not particularly worried. I don’t mind not working, and at least now, knock wood, we don’t need the money (I don’t make much anyway, having worked only part-time in those 25 years except for the one year in Mass Comm). I’m not saying I’m retired, because if ARC called and asked me to teach in the spring, I’d do it, and perhaps I’ll even get ambitious and actively seek work. But it’s too early for that, since for now, I still consider myself an employee at ARC who is laid off, rather than a guy with no employer.
I waited until today to apply because this is the beginning of the new semester. I couldn’t file in the spring because I was still working, and I couldn’t file in the summer because I was out of the country part of the time and thus was unavailable even if they had a job for me. But starting today, I am officially unemployed.