This research paper is on the book named Nickel and Dimed, a non fiction best seller penned by Barbara Ehrenreich. It is the story of an essay writer who goes undercover on advice of Harper’s editor Lewis Lapham as a low wage worker to find out how non-skilled workers manage their day to day lives. She experiments in three states, namely Florida, Maine, and Minnesota, by finding a job and accommodation in each location, in an attempt to find out the life of low paid workers. She spends one month in each location working full time and living only off the amount of money she earns in low-wage jobs.
The purpose of these experiments was to determine whether the author could both live off the money earned and have enough money at the end of the month to pay the next month’s rent or not. A Book Report on Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America and Criticisms It is said that America is a land where dreams come true everyday. It is absolutely true. Millions of people from all over the world come to America to be certain that they have found a land where finally they would have enough of everything.
Barbara Ehrenreich not agrees with the above statement, especially, when it comes to low-paid and unskilled workers. Barbara Ehrenreich is an upper middle class woman, who is a writer with PhD in biology in her real life. On advice of Harper’s editor Lewis Lapham, she follows a journalistic approach to infiltrate the low paid workers to know the effects of welfare reform. She leaves her life as a writer with $1300 in her pocket to meet the unexpected expenses, her personal items and her car. Her first destination is Key West, Florida where she starts searching for a job and lodgings.
She chooses this city as it is closer to her home. There she secures jobs at two restaurants as a waitress and flirting with one day act as a housekeeper and continues living. Her fear as an over-qualified worker takes toll and she feels herself like an under-qualified worker as days proceed. This goes on for two months instead of for months, when she finally accepts defeat, as she walks out in mid-shift. The jobs get physically demanding and Barbara is extremely exhausted, the main reason behind her quitting. The restaurant and the people’s names are not revealed by the author.
After leaving Key West, she plans to start afresh with Portland, Maine. The choice of location is connected author’s Caucasian demographics which she presumes that she will get better with workers and is quite affordable. There she finds two jobs. The main one is that of housekeeping, the job which is in strict need. The other one is of a dietary aide in nursing home where there is an Alzheimer patient whom she has to take care of regularly. There she befriends Marge and Holly, who are fellow housekeepers. Compared to previous one, she is proud of her job.
As Ted, the manager of the housekeeping company is strict with women’s schedule; her routine becomes tight and physically and mentally demanding. She and other housekeepers often are deprived of lunch either of their schedule or because of their low wages. In the due course, Holly becomes pregnant and she needs holidays, which Ted refuses to give. However, the author is successful in winning her holidays from Ted revealing her real job. After her stint at Portland, she proceeds to her final destination- Minneapolis, Minnesota.
There she manages to find a runaway motel with loose bolts and doors, after a long hunt for accommodation in a city where vacancy rate is only 1%. She is unsafe of her belongings at her stay. After a long search, she manages to get her job in Wal-Mart in ladies clothing. Her job is pick up dropped clothing and taking cloths from dressing rooms and put them back on the racks. There she befriends Melissa and meets union as she feels that workers are working too hard for their wage. Though she finds a better place to live, she eventually leaves her job after a month, as the wage is too low to afford a single day meal.
After her experiments she finally analyses how she performed at each job. She rates herself as average and one of the problems she faced is low level of encouragement from her co-workers. Also she concludes that the unskilled jobs are physically and mentally challenging and the state is even worsened due to employee politics. Level of competition in the markets is very high as there is rise of rent, especially for hourly workers. Employers used many tricks in order to keep wages low so that employees keep coming back to their jobs. These all with the politics resulted in low pay and low standard of living.
These workers will even face a problem in knowing the better pay jobs as they have little education and cannot afford increasing transportation cost. The main reason for these shortcomings in these jobs was low self esteem. People who work these menial jobs are not given respect and often games are played at them to reduce their pay. The author finally concludes the book as the welfare reform has not yet reached the people in the way the government had planned and calls for better prospects for these people and increases their standard of living.
In response to Nickel and Dimed, Adam Shepard conducted an experiment. Sheperd began his experiment with $25 in his pocket. Without mentioning his degrees, he managed to get a job and fulfilled his objective of buying a home, a car and more than $5000 as his savings in ten months. This experiment refuted to the premise around which Nickel and Dimed was constructed. The author finally concludes by portraying the mindset of low-paid workers-“When someone works for less pay than she can live on … she has made a great sacrifice for you …
The “working poor” … are in fact the major philanthropists of our society. They neglect their own children so that the children of others will be cared for; they live in substandard housing so that other homes will be shiny and perfect; they endure privation so that inflation will be low and stock prices high. To be a member of the working poor is to be an anonymous donor, a nameless benefactor, to everyone. ” References Ehrenreich, Barbara. 2001. Metropolitan Books. Nickel and Dimed. Platt, Charles. “Life at Wal-Mart. “
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