Low Wage Jobs and Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed

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McDonalds, Wal-Mart, and cleaning services: all of these have one thing in common-they are all minimum wage jobs. Their pay is low and work load high, and because of this living as a low wageworker is never easy. One must handle many hardships in order to make a few meager dollars, with which most cannot sufficiently live. 'The 'living wage' in the United States is between $9-10.18; sounds great to a college student, but in the real world this kind of money just isn't going to cut it,' (Ramisch). Minimum wage standards for American workers rest at $5.15 per hour, and in such slighted fields, very few make much more than that, perhaps $6-7, but even that is a rarity. The material life of a low-income employee includes bare necessities and next to zero luxuries. These workers often live paycheck to paycheck and never have a moment to fully enjoy life because they are constantly working, supporting themselves, and/or their families. Barbara Ehrenreich tries capturing this unacknowledged side of low wageworkers in her book, Nickel and Dimed, when she goes undercover as a fellow employee. Her real life accounts are noted as accurate and shocking as she brings the severity of poverty to the forefront for many Americans (Ehrenreich 3). She portrays the lives of millions in one simple novel, and it is through this piece of literature that so many relate and feel less estranged in the overall scheme of things. This relation is especially true for three young women, Brandyll Powers, Whitney James, and Charity Pouge all of whom are forced to live on their scanty incomes in today's society. These interviewees discuss their daily struggles of living on minimum wage and how they are active representations of Ehrenreich?s novel.


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...idden truths and in essence, portrays a minimum wage worker quite well. But for those that must live this life style on a daily basis, simply writing about their injustices will never be sufficient. Government action is the next needed step to help modify minimum wage, and the answer is clear: raise the accepted standard. However, with all the other issues in this country, when will the government finally realize it is time to take action?

Works Cited

Ehrenreich, Barbara. Nickel and Dimed. New York: Henry Holt, 2001.

James, Whitney. Telephone Interview. 16 March 2006.

Pouge, Charity. Personal Interview. 14 March 2006.

Powers, Brandyll. Personal Interview. 14 March 2006.

Ramisch, Claudia. ?Living on Minimum Wage.? ENGL 1302H Class Presentation, Kentucky Wesleyan College, Owensboro, KY. 13 March 2006.
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