Life Struggle on Minimum Wage
Sometimes life isn’t always as easy as getting a job, making money and paying you bills. In her fascinating book on extended essays Nickel and Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich poses as an unskilled worker to show the struggles encountered everyday by Americans attempting to live on minimum wage, “matching income to expenses as the truly poor attempting to do everyday.” (6)
Ehrenreich gave herself three rules she had to live by and they were: 1. She could not use her education or professional skills to land a job, 2. She had to take the highest paying job offered and do her best to hold it and 3. She had to take the cheapest accommodations available with an acceptable level of safety and privacy.
Ehrenreich decides to try living in three cities across the US: Key West, Florida, Portland, Maine and Minneapolis, Minnesota.
In Florida she works as a waitress, taking two jobs, one of them she describes the conditions as:
“The regulation poster in the single unisex restroom admonishes us to wash our hands thoroughly, and even offers instructions for doing so, but there is always some vital substance missing – soap, paper towels, toilet paper – and I never found all three at once. You learn to stuff your pockets with napkins before going in there, and too bad about the customers who must eat, although they don’t realiuze it, almost literally out of our hands.” (30)
Ehrenreich finally gives up, she had one of those I-can’t-take-it-anymore moments and walks out. “There is not vindication in this exit, no fuck-you surge of relief, just an over-whelming dank sense of failure pressing down on me.” (48)
In Maine she works in a care home on the weekends and a cleaning maid service throughout the week. She finds out that her work as a maid is so hard that her health begins to fail and she is revolted when a friend working with her struggles on, despite serious illness and pregnancy.
In Minnesota the author finds herself...