The American Nightmare

From a Contract Worker

As a contract worker, I rely on obtaining monthly contracts with multiple employers, which means my income fluctuates and is incredibly unstable. With the onset of the shelter-in-place order more than three weeks ago, my workplaces have shut down and I’ve been out of work for almost a month. Because I’m considered self-employed, I had no sick time or PTO to cushion the loss of work, nor do I qualify for unemployment. (The latter is set to change in some states, but the low number of state employees means changes in unemployment insurance will be slow to roll out, and could take months.)

This crisis is demonstrating the precariousness of my situation, and others like me. While in “normal” times I appreciate the flexibility that being self-employed gives me, now I understand that this flexibility is really a mask for the brink of unemployment that we’re always teetering on. One bad month and we can be screwed. Plus it’s harder to stand in solidarity with others and fight back if we get pay cuts, are cheated out of wages, or are forced into unsafe working conditions. We have to look outside of traditional workplaces to find support and connect with others in the same circumstances, in order to protect ourselves and our work.

I was raised believing that being self-employed is the American Dream, but if the American Dream is knowing that if I won’t secure a job next month then I won’t eat, I think it’s more of a nightmare.

Featured image credit: Chetan Hireholi / Unsplash