The Emergence of the "Precariat": What Does the Loss of Stable, Well-Compensated Employment Mean for Education?

The emergence of the global knowledge economy has revolutionized the nature of work in America – for the worse. Unionized, well-paying private sector jobs that were once a ladder to the middle class have been decimated. Poorly compensated, insecure and precarious employment has grown dramatically. As a consequence, economic inequality has mushroomed. Perhaps nothing captures this transformation better than academia, where tenure-track positions have declined as the numbers of poorly paid, insecure adjuncts have swelled. What is the reality of life in the ‘precariat?’ What has the growth of the ‘precariat’ meant for the American economy? For the quality of American higher education? What are the prospects for union organizing among the ‘precariat?’


Barbara Ehrenreich, co-editor, Economic Hardship Reporting Project

Rosemary Feal, executive director, Modern Language Association

Andrew Ross, professor, Social and Cultural Analysis; Director, American Studies (interim), New York University

Jennie Shanker, adjunct professor, Temple University; member, Temple adjunct organizing committee

Sponsored by the Albert Shanker Institute and the American Federation of Teachers, this conversation series is designed to engender lively and informative discussions on important educational issues. We deliberately invite speakers with diverse perspectives, including views other than those of the AFT and the Albert Shanker Institute. What is important is that these participants are committed to genuine engagement with each other.