Sunday, March 30, 2008

Nickled and Dimed

By Kim L. Cross-posted at BoldBlueAdventure

Author: Barbara Ehrenreich
Rating: 5/5
Reason for Reading: Recommendation by Eva, In Their Shoes Reading Challenge

Poverty, especially in relation to Welfare is an uncomfortable topic. Get two people with different viewpoints going on the subject, and your carefully planned dinner party could quickly end in disaster.

Barbara Ehrenreich, who in normal life spends her time as a writer, decided to spend 3 months as a blue-collar worker to see what it was like to live on the wages offered by the likes of Walmart and other low-paying jobs of similar ilk.

The result is a fascinating first-hand account of the struggle to make ends meet on meager wages. Ehrenreich started as a waitress in Key West, then a maid and dishwasher in Maine, and finally as a Walmart employee in Minnesota.

She reports in the introduction that "The first thing I discovered is that no job, no matter how lowly, is truly "unskilled". Every one of the six jobs I entered into in the course of this project required concentration, and most demanded that I master new terms, new tools, and new skills."

Ehrenreich reports on the exhaustion of standing on her feet for 8 or more hours in a row, the humiliation of mandatory drug tests, having her first paycheck held (as is the custom in many low-paying jobs), the managers who spend all their time looking over everyone's shoulder to yell at the smallest mistake, the seedy rent by the week motels she stayed at, and the complete and utter inadequacy of $7 an hour to pay for all of the lodging, food, clothing, and payphone expenses.

Read the rest

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