After reading about the travels Barbara Ehrenreich took in the book Nickel and Dimed as an attempt to “discover some hidden economies in the world of the low- wage worker” to Florida, Maine, and Minnesota, I have been able to deepen my understanding of the harsh reality people face while working In low Income Jobs, (Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, p. 3) She undertook several different types of low wage jobs such as a waitress, hotel housekeep, nursing home cook, maid and a retail associate.
The workers she encountered in the low-income workforce struggle daily with the grueling task of rying to find affordable and safe housing, medical insurance, fair workplaces, and many other dfferent Issues that apart of trying to survive on minimum wage. Barbara’s adventures have opened my eyes to the rude reality that most low-wage workers truly face. As Ehrenreich ventures out to start her undercover Journey her first destination Is Key West, Florida.
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She manages to find a Job as a waitress fairly quickly and succeeds in maintaining herself financially while working. Not long after starting, she is able to see firsthand what struggles her co-workers are dealing with on a dally basis. The harsh treatment and unrealistic expectations from the managers result in an overall negative atmosphere for the team morale, mental state, and attitude towards the Job entirely. The management personnel also seem to come across as a bit degrading towards the employees.
Throughout Ehrenreich’s venture to the various states and job titles, she continuously observes the same sad patterns repetitively. The businesses that she works at are denying breaks, a clean work environment. and In some cases real Job training. Businesses are refusing to pay enough in wages to allow an employee to cover the costs of safe and adequate ousing. Employees are forced to have to turn to living in their vehicles or with a working roommate. A second Income from a roommate allows low wage workers the ability to better maintain a more suitable household.
She then continues her Journey to the second destination, Portland, Maine, she experiences life of being a maid for a house cleaning company while taking on a part-time Job as a cook at the local nursing home. While Ehrenreich was working two Jobs able to afford a five hundred per month apartment. In her little time off, she continuously searched for better housing accommodations and job opportunities. All of the factors that she ran Into during her first job still seem to remain the same throughout all of her different positions.
The low-income workers are paid so little that even if they were allowed to take a sick day off they would not be able to afford It; In fact, most of people were encouraged by the leadership to work even if they were sick or had an emergency. Colleen made it clear to me how extreme the businesses were making it for low wage workers to have time off when she said, “What I would like Is to be able to take a day off now and then… If I had to… And still be able to buy groceries the next day. (Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, p. 1 9) Ehrenreich began to feel such physical strain of the long hours with very little break time In only a matter of weeks that she said, “There Is a constant traffic in herbal and over-the-counter solutions to pain. ” (Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, p. 89) of health coverage. It seemed as though low-income workers were facing a lot of the same issues as the men in The Great Railroad Strike of 1877. (Bedford/St. Martin’s, Understanding the American Promise: A Brief History, p. 2) After reading this book I feel as though I became more in tune with the everyday grave struggles that the majority of people go through Just to try and make ends meet. I cannot imagine my life at seven dollars an hour especially with the four year old son. Being able to provide the basic life necessities with that type of wage would be simply impossible without any assistance. I do not feel as though sacrificing that amount of time away from a person’s family for such a low-wage would overall be worth it, especially if the income isn’t even able to maintain the bare minimum living costs.
I was compelled the most in the evaluation chapter when Ehrenreich raises the question, “Why don’t more of them take a stand where they are – demanding better wages and work conditions, either individually or as a group? ” (Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, p. 207) I believe Ehrenreich did do an excellent Job at investigating her assignment and she raised numerous great points for all of us to compare. It is important that, as we continue to grow as a country, we look at all aspects of the small or large businesses that we are supporting.