precarious-university-uc-santa-cruz-lecturers-picket-1Is it strange to toast a fictional character during a family dinner? I say no, especially if the character symbolizes the kind of precarious work situations most adjuncts face in order to even have Thanksgiving. Since you’re already providing the food, perhaps San Precario can provide some food for thought.

San Precario, the patron saint of precarious, casual, temporary, fractional workers, first appeared in Milan, Italy in 2004, taking the form of a fast food worker. Sometimes appearing as male, sometimes as female, (Santa Precaria), the saint’s purpose is to create a visual iconography of the increasing casualization of the workforce, i.e., the administrative trend of adjunctification currently threatening America’s halls of higher education.

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The saint is sometimes depicted with multiple arms representing the multiplicity of casual contracts and jobs as well as to represent that, through necessity, casual workers develop multiple skills and juggle several jobs in order to survive. References to the workers’ martyrdom are held in the hands: For adjuncts, they might hold the employment page from a newspaper, a syllabus, fast food and car keys (or bus fare). San Precario may appear as a teacher, a temporary office worker, a supermarket employee, maintenance worker, or professional mom trying to handle her work responsibilities while breastfeeding her infant.

Visual symbols inspire comment and conversation, and can promote public awareness of the changing working conditions of part-time teaching professionals as well as other workers. So, as we enter a season filled with parades and gatherings, wouldn’t it be nice if San Precario showed up at a couple of your local events to help raise public awareness of what’s happening to the faculty at America’s colleges and universities? How can adjuncts and students at your university conjure the saint and what information might his/her presence provide?

So, as you’re toasting symbols of gratitude, love and abundance this Thanksgiving, take a moment to acknowledge San Precario and show respect to the legions of people s/he represents.