Bumble Bee Wages
Originally published: Tuesday, Jan 29 @ 12:01 PM
I can’t remember when I first this little “factoid” where apparently engineers say that the wing span of a bumble bee should not be sufficient to sustain flight. The folksy bit of humor that accompanies that assertion is that “nobody told the bee”. The bee somehow manages to make it work despite the engineers. I remember this anecdote being applied to the guitar-playing of Chet Atkins. It was said that some of the things Chet managed to play on guitar should not be humanly possible. But, like the bumble bee, no one got around to telling Chet, so he just went and did it anyway. I was driving home a couple of months ago, and these thoughts had popped into my head, along with the hardship that a lot of folks are having with trying to make ends meet on minimum wage (there may have be a bit on NPR at the time, talking about the policies Walmart practices of keeping their employees just short of full-time hours, so as to deny them healthcare and other benefits). For a lot of people, wages have been stagnant for some years, or falling behind inflation in some cases. So, in the spirit of Woody Guthrie and other such heroes, I finished a song, called Bumble Bee Wages. Pony, and I spent last weekend in Breckenridge. It was a welcome break from routine. We wandered the town and enjoyed the ice sculpture festival that was taking place over the weekend. On Sunday morning, while Pony slept in a bit, I sat on a couch and mulled over the idea for this song, and began to jot down some lyrics. Within about forty minutes or so, I had two verses and a chorus that I thought were promising. Later that evening, after we had returned home, I came up with a bridge and a third verse. Yesterday was for setting the words to chords and melody that I could be happy with. There is something of a personal stake in this. Last December, Arapahoe Community College had a meeting of adjunct professors (which would include me). It’s sort of a dirty little secret of academia in that they employee a great number of part-time adjunct teachers (one figure I heard for Arapahoe College was that some 85% of the teachers were part-time adjunct). We get no benefits (I’ve been shelling out for my own healthcare for years on end), and contracts are from one semester to the next. The meeting began with some talk about changes in the grading software we are using at present, then the last half hour or so was an address by the Dean. We were informed that the Affordable Care Act would require every employer with 50 or more employees to provide healthcare for any employee working 30 hours or more per week. The community colleges have decided this a financial burden they cannot meet. They figured out that 12 credit hours is the equivalent of a 30-hour work week, so, effective with the Fall semester of this year, they will restrict the teaching load of all adjuncts to 11 credit hours. Since most classes are set at 3 credit hours, this will mean a lot of teachers will end up restricted to three classes, total. And it gets better: it is common for many adjuncts to teach at more than one college in an effort to cobble together something that looks like full-time employment. But since all the community colleges in Colorado are part of the Colorado Community College System, an additional policy will impose this work restriction system-wide. The bottom line is something like this: We (the administration of the community colleges of Colorado) have not paid for your healthcare, and we do not wish to pay for your healthcare. Therefore, in an effort to avoid doing so, we are going to restrict how much you can work, so that you can pay for your healthcare with the reduced amount of money you will be earning. Bumble Bee wages indeed. There is an open stage at Jefferson Unitarian Church, in Golden, this Friday (February 1st). I look to take part and test out the new song there. There is no charge for admission, so feel free to come on out.