Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed Essay

Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed Essay

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     Barbara Ehrenreich is a journalist who wrote the book Nickel and Dimed. She goes undercover to see how it feels to work for $6 to $7 an hour. She leaves her regular life to explore the experiences of a minimum wage worker. Ehrenreich travels to Florida, Maine, and Minnesota, looking for jobs and places to live on a minimum wage salary. At one point in time, she had to work two jobs to makes ends meet. As she worked all these jobs, she discovered many problems in the social world. The things she went through were not the types of situations that she usually experienced. She wasn’t used to living and working environments of the poor. She had to deal with the different personalities and customs of her co-workers, their living arrangement, and the management hierarchy in each job. She worked as a waitress at two different restaurants, as a maid service cleaning houses, and as a dietary aide at a nursing home.

     Ehrenreich didn’t want to be a waitress any more than some waitresses, but she did it for her research. Ehrenreich once stated that, “Waitres sing is also something I’d like to avoid, because I remember it leaving me bone-tired when I was eighteen.” (13). Her first job was at Hearthside, a restaurant in Key West, Florida. She was hired as a waitress, starting at $2.43 plus tips. She worked the afternoon shift. Hearthside was being managed by a West Indian man by name of Phillip. The management wasn’t the best. They treated their employees disrespectfully. At an employee meeting, they were threatened by the management. Ehrenreich stated, “I have not been treated this way-lined up in the corridor, threatened with locker searches, peppered with carelessly aimed accusation-since junior high school” (24). When they were just standing around, the manager would give them extra work to do. According to Ehrenreich, “You start dragging out each little chore because if the manager on duty catches you in an idle moment, he will give you something far nastier to do. So I wipe, I clean, consolidate catsups bottles and recheck the cheesecake supply, even tour the tables to make sure the customer evaluation is standing perkily.” (22). They were hired at Hearthside to serve the customers. There are twenty-six tables in the whole restaurant. All the food must be placed on the food trays; small items were to be carried in a bowl, and no refills on the lemonade (1...


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...but she slept on the sofa, while her four grown children and three grandchildren fill up the bedrooms. But although no one, apparently, is sleeping in a car, there are signs, even at the beginning, of real difficulty if not actual misery” (79). No one likes what they do for a living, but they got to do whatever it takes to make it in life.

     Yes, in the book Nickel and Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich did face problems when working minimum wage jobs. In each state, Ehrenreich works with different people, but having the same problems in the end. The challenges she faced was the different people she worked for, who seemed not to care about their employees as long as they came to work and did what they were told to do. The rules and regulations at each job were different, and never the same. All her fellow co-workers’ personalities were different. Some of them were nice to work with, but had so many things going wrong with their lives. She had to adjust to her co-workers’ lifestyles and the way they support each other. It was a good experience for her and she was never in a situation that she could not get herself out of, even though she had other money saved up for those rainy days.

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