Friday, December 13, 2019

Nickel and Dimed On (Not) Getting By in America Free Essays

Barbara Ehrenreich’s, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, is a book that strives to change the way America perceives its working poor. Achieving the American Dream can be difficult, if not impossible for many people with stumbling blocks and obstacles along the way as portrayed in Nickel and Dimed, due to the cost of living in contrast to the wage of low or middle class earners. Nickel and Dimed is essentially a journal of the time spent by the author, with her identity and PhD concealed, working in order to discover whether she could support a basic life style from earning minimum wage. We will write a custom essay sample on Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America or any similar topic only for you Order Now This book shows how things such as stress in the work place, lack of proper benefits, cost of housing and how what was merely an experiment for Ehrenreich, is a real detriment for many others. In her experiment Ehrenreich finds cheap housing and works various minimum wage jobs paying between $6-$7 an hour all while assessing her findings. In working as a waitress in Florida, a maid in Maine, and a sales clerk in Minnesota, Ehrenreich soon discovers that even the â€Å"lowliest† of occupations require exhausting and strenuous efforts rewarded by a wage that barely covers living expenses and everyday costs. As a native resident to Florida, Ehrenreich doesn’t venture far from home to begin research. She quickly realizes the harsh variation from her comfortable middle-class lifestyle and her new predicament. She finds work waiting tables at two restaurants and as a housekeeper working only once a week at a hotel. She experiences the invisibility of many low-wage workers when her face â€Å"goes unnoticed† in her native town (11). Similarly, her name is not usually used; when people want her attention, they use generic female condescending terms such as â€Å"blondie† or â€Å"baby† (12). Ehrenereich soon discovers that this must he the suppressive behavior received by many low-wage workers. She goes on to describe working for insensitive and arrogant managers who feed from the power of their higher positions. From her own experience, Ehrenreich learns that her work and time are not valued the same way theirs is. She and her fellow workers experience humiliation, disrespect, and indignities as managers control workers by having them spend time on unnecessary tasks, do not allow them to talk to each other, and do not trust them within the workplace. She observes how her fellow co-workers often avoid talking of money issues. They do not have enough money to lead a somewhat normal life, none the less a recreational one. They merely shun topics of conversation relating to movies or shopping or even housing situations. â€Å"It’s hard to get my co-workers talking about their living situations, because housing is the principle source of disruption in their lives. † â€Å"This job shows no sign of being financially viable† (25). Before luckily finding a residence in a trailer park, Ehrenreich makes the discovery that, â€Å"unless I want to start using my car as a residence, I have to find a second or alternative job† (28). She learns that if this were her actual life, she could not make ends meet on one job alone. After moving out of the trailer park, she chooses to migrate to Maine. With the majority of the people being white, she suspected that it would be easier for her to assimilate into the working poor. She becomes a dietary aid at a nearby Residential Facility and also a maid for a large corporation. With her days starting at around 4:45 am and her unexceptional pay, her days are filled with no more than work and little sleep. Unable to find cheap enough housing, she has to lodge in nearby hotels that end up being overpriced and many times unacceptable. During her employment at The Maids, Ehrenreich soon becomes taken advantage of when her breaks are even taken from her. â€Å"In my interview I has been promised a thirty-minute lunch break, but this turns out to be a five-minute pit stop at a convenience store† (77). With such an inadequate amount of nourishment, many of the other employees found it hard to carry out a nine hour day full of strenuous activity. Many of these minimum wage jobs do not include proper benefits such as health care. During her work here, many of Ehrenreichs fellow co-workers are hurt on the job, yet are disregarded by the boss. With help from Ehrenreich, one employee was actually able to go home after hurting her ankle on the job. â€Å"Ted sent me home† as if this were some arbitrary injustice† (114). Although sent home, any compensation for this injury would be not be given. Many of the employees receive inadequate treatment and are taken advantage of by Ted, their boss. Referred to as â€Å"pimp† by Ehrenreich because of his foul personality, total disregard for his employees and his main concern being profit . The question as to why these woman stick around a job like this baffled Ehrenreich. She realizes that many of these women seek approval from Ted. My coworkers neediness†¦ stems from chronic deprivation† (117). Always being â€Å"reamed out† (116) in turn manipulates these poor women into thinking they’re worth the wages they make. Television does not help either. â€Å"It is easy for a fast-food worker or a nurse’s aide to conclude that she is a n anomaly-the only one† (117) when TV is filled with sitcoms and dramas depicting people and their abundance of money. â€Å"The poor have disappeared, not only from its political rhetoric but also its intellectual endeavors† (118). Ehrenreich also experiences much discrimination while working at the maids service. While in a local store, she goes unacknowledged due to the green and yellow uniform representing â€Å"prison clothes on a fugitive† (100). People automatically assume your position in life is to cater to others, putting you at the bottom of the barrel. While working two jobs, Ehrenreich still resorts to resource centers which offer free meals to those who are eligible. This proves that there may be help for the hardworking poor, yet you better be determined and ready to search for such assistance. On her last trip, Ehrenreich ventures to Minnesota. It was almost impossible for her to find an affordable residence. Even with the help of an Apartment Search, no explanation or further help was given to Ehrenreich. She was merely told that she should be aware of an affordable housing â€Å"crisis. † There needs to be further assistance in helping the working poor find affordable residencies. Research states that in the last few years we have seen a steady decline in the number of affordable apartments nationwide. She lands a job at a nearby Wal-Mart and Menards. She soon discovers how hard these employees work for their money and how dedicated they are. With an initial pay of $7 an hour and the lure that in two years it might be raised to $7. 5, the options are not optimistic. During this job, no one is allowed to be caught talking to one another, or â€Å"stealing time. â€Å" Ehrenreich is surprised to see hard-working women of mature years â€Å"dodging behind a clothing rack to avoid a twenty-six-year-old management twerp† (181). Many bosses in these kinds of jobs, love to hold power over others and feed off the authority. In one instance an employee was denied the use of her discount in order to buy a clearance t-shirt with a stain on it. Ehrenreich goes on to explain that â€Å"you know you’re not paid enough when you can’t afford to buy a clearance Wal-Mart shirt with a stain on it† (181). Employees are also not receiving pay for overtime hours they are pressured to work. This along with the inadequate health insurance gives Ehrenreich the idea to start a union. The union idea eventually falls through the cracks due to lack of enthusiasm from fellow coworkers. After experiencing many low -wage jobs, Ehrenreich comes to the conclusion that â€Å"nothing happens, or rather the same thing always happens, which amounts, day after day, to nothing† (186). What is the point of working so hard when â€Å"you don’t make enough to save† (191) let alone to have any luxuries? This book has changed definitely changed the way I feel about the poor. The stereotype that the poor are poor because they are lazy is not completely untrue. Obviously many of these women whom Ehrenreich worked with held two jobs or more and were still financially unstable. That also goes along with the myth that if you work hard you will succeed. These are the hardest working individuals, yet still remain poor. As long as the rich are a part of the market and economy, the poor will never benefit. When it comes to the common understanding that a job will be the ticket out of poverty and the only thing holding back the welfare recipient is their unwillingness to go out and get one is very misleading. Ehrenreich held two jobs in several instances and could only afford to wear second hand clothing. She also had to visit the resource center to receive free meals. Even though this project was hard for Ehrenreich, it is harder to imagine the lives of most women who not only work as hard as Ehrenreich did, but also have to go home and chase around toddlers and raise a family. I don’t believe we give enough credit to the working poor. I agree with Ehrenreich when she states that â€Å"something is wrong when a person in good health who owns a car can barely support herself by the sweat of her brow† (199). I always wondered why workers who were not getting paid enough never looked for other job opportunities. I am aware now that this along with many other issues are beyond their control. The poorer people are the more constrained their mobility is. Usually relying on someone else to pick you up and drop you off pretty much limits you to one place of employment. This book has changed my thinking in so many ways, mostly that the problems that limit their progression are out of their reach. The government needs to step in and provide for more assistance and ids to help the situation. Just based on the difficulty Ehrenreich had when trying to locate food shelter that would feed her disappointed me greatly. It is unbelievable that it is expected from a poor person, who has limited money and resources, to do that much work in order to find food or even shelter, let alone proper daycare. Everyone should read this book in order to grasp the harsh realities of the working poor. Ehrenbeich, Barb ara. Nickel and Dimed On (Not) Getting By In America. 1st edition. New York, NY: Holt Paperbacks, 2002. 1-193. Print. (Ehrenbeich 1-193) How to cite Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, Papers Nickel and Dimed on (Not) Getting by in America Free Essays Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America In the thought provoking novel, Nickel and Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich explores the life of low-wage workers in America’s society. While speaking with an editor one day, the question of poverty and how American’s survive off six and seven dollars an hour played in Ms. Ehrenreich’s mind. We will write a custom essay sample on Nickel and Dimed: on (Not) Getting by in America or any similar topic only for you Order Now So as a journalist, Ehrenreich goes undercover working several minimum wage jobs and tries to survive off the earnings. Seeing and living the lives of these poverty-stricken workers, Ehrenreich learns that hard work doesn’t always lead to success and advancement in today’s society. This novel takes you on a journey, revealing the insights of how people strive to survive in America’s society working minimum wage jobs that do not suffice adequate funds to cover their needs and expenses. Ehrenreich begins her research in Key West, Florida. Her first task was to find a place to live. She opts out of her decision to leave in a convenient and affordable apartment for a five hundred dollar a month efficiency that is about forty-five minutes away from the employment opportunities Key West has to offer. Her next task was job searching. Ehrenreich applied for numerous jobs, and learns about the low-wage job application process. These job applications usually just involved several multiple-choice questions and a urine test. After not hear back from any of the jobs, Ehrenreich applies for a waitressing position at the diner â€Å"Hearthside,† (which is not the actual name as well as the names of associates she comes in contact with). Ehrenreich is offered the position of a waitress and is hired at Hearthside and works the night shift working from 2:00 in the evening until 10:00 at night for $2. 43 an hour, plus tips. If a person strives to make means off six and seven dollars an hour, surely $2. 43 is not sufficed, especially when customers do not like tip the waitress. During her time at Hearthside, Ehrenreich comes to despise management. She finds that while she must constantly find busy work to do, anything at all but being still, while her superiors are able to sit for hours. Management lacks the compassion for their employees and for their customers. They have only one concern in mind and that is make sure the restaurant makes money. I’ve personally experienced this on my job. Sometimes there is absolutely nothing else to do at work. Why? There is one simple answer; everything has already taken care of and much more. But, management will hassle you to keep busy even when there is nothing else to do. Once Ehrenreich gets a feel for the job, she begins interacting with her co-workers and learns of their poverty lifestyle. Her observation also revealed that most of the workers were minorities. Ehrenreich then begins to compiles a survey on the workers living arrangements: Gail, whom she becomes close to, shares a room with a roommate for $250 a week. Ehrenreich p. 24) Now if you access the situation and do a few calculations you can realize that Gail is strictly living paycheck to paycheck. Claude, a cook, lives in a two room apartment with his girlfriend and two other people. Others are paying to stay in hotels each night, some pay $170 dollars a week for a one person trailer, and others are living out their cars. Ehrenreich soon realizes that unless she wan ts to live out of her car she needs to find another job. She picks up a second waitressing job at Jerry’s. Ehrenreich comes to find out that Jerry’s is a ruin. The kitchens are a mess, the bathrooms are never adequately equipped, and there is no break room because breaks are hardly allowed. Ehrenreich is unable to juggle working at both the Hearthside and Jerry’s, so she leaves Hearthside so she can earn more money at Jerry’s. Ehrenreich is able to find a small trailer in a trailer park and moves closer to Key West. After a month of waitressing, Ehrenreich gets a housekeeping position in a hotel which pays $6. 10 an hour. Unfortunately Ehrenreich only lasts on the job for one day. After having a miserable days work at Jerry’s, Ehrenreich quits the job by simply walking out. Ehrenreich turns her trailer over to Gail and says goodbye to Key West. After departing Key West, Ehrenreich travels to two other states, Maine and Minnesota, in hope of finding better jobs as well as better pay. In the final chapter, Ehrenreich evaluates her observations and provides an overall study of her project and draws together her conclusions. She believes she has done a good job living under these certain circumstance. These observations open ones eye to how many people in the United States, not just the World, who are leaving in such poor conditions. An abundance of individuals do not realize the poverty that’s occurring at home (U. S. ). We usually think of third world countries (i. e. Africa). Volunteering my time at the community market has helped me realize how many people need assistance and who are leaving in conditions that are considered to most people as degrading. I know how hard it is to live of the earnings I make. My earnings approximate around nine dollars an hour and even with these ages it is hard to survive. You have startup costs, deposits, power bills, water bills, food, telephone bills, car notes, etc†¦ the list goes on and on. It is difficult to even live off of halfway decent wages yet alone minimum wages of six dollars an hour. Gas prices nowadays, are about two-thirds of the wage amount. I feel honored and privileged to be able to volunteer my time to such activ ities and organizations as the community market and the community garden. It gives me assurance that I can help make a difference in my community and society. I hope that more people would become aware of these activities and help contribute their time to help cease starvation and poverty in the world. Ehrenreich does an excellent job of revealing the inadequate wage conditions of society. Her plan was to reveal and understand the everyday life of low-income people, how they survive on a daily basis and find out what wage workers really go through. Most people don’t know what is next for them or what the next day has in store for them. But the final conclusion is that low-wage lifestyle is unfair and impractical. How to cite Nickel and Dimed: on (Not) Getting by in America, Papers

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