Low Wage Jobs And Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel And Dimed

2739 words - 11 pages

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.

Poverty and unemployment are no uncommon situations for many Americans. In fact, here in Owensboro, Kentucky alone, the average unemployment rate is 5.8%; not a high statistic when looking at the larger picture, however, this percentage is considerably larger than it ever should be. Nationwide government officials often wonder how this country is going to overcome unemployment, and the common misconception is through the provision of low wage jobs. By providing people with some source of income, congress believes millions will no longer depend on government aid. In actuality, however, providing minimum wage work is not going to solve such a drastic problem now, in the future, or at all for that matter. Minimum wage ($5.15), while serving at the socially acceptable pay standard, does not even compare with the nationwide ?living wage? of $10.18 (Ramisch). It is becoming increasingly more difficult to survive on such tragic wages, yet there is often little debate because it is money, and every little bit matters when it comes to paying bills.

With the mass production of low wage jobs, businesses have the ability hire their lackeys by the dozen. Corporations thrive on the cheap availability of their...

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