I would like to start by saying that the book Nickel and Dimed was written by Barbara Ehrenreich and was created from the perspective of the undercover journalist who would investigate the impact of the 1996 welfare reforms on the working poor class in the USA. The book describes the events that took place between the spring of 1998 and the summer of 2000. Ehrenreich would undertake a practical approach to evaluating the impact of the welfare on common people, so she would take only $1000 with her, leave her home and the middle-class life and with her car tried to spend a few months working in low paid jobs assuming the low-income status.
Ehrenreich would travel from Florida to Maine to Minnesota and assumed various jobs. Her investigation would prove that with her qualities, car and initial savings of $1000 she was unable to achieve any sustainable lifestyle and thus would ultimately fail in her life if continued for an extended time period.
The investigation proved that the arguments of people being “too lazy to work” or the statements that jobs will remove poverty in the country which are assumed by the middle and upper classes do not hold true. Thus, one learns that although the low-wage jobs required unskilled labor, they indeed require a lot of stamina, focus, memory, good and quick thinking, let alone fast learning (Ehrenreich, 96). Ehrenreich pointed out that routine tasks create repetitive stress injury, while the day becomes uninteresting and degrading.
The first jobs that were assumed by Ehrenreich were jobs in restaurants “Jerry’s” and “Hearthside”. The other jobs (assumed in Maine) was a dietary aide at a nursing home and another job was a maid at a cleaning franchise. The ultimate job assumed was a worker on the floor at a Wal-Mart. Now let’s proceed to some changes as illustrated below.
The modern day economic restructuring that took place after 1973 certainly affects the low-income industries that require unskilled labor. Thus, since 1973, the use of computer technology had become widespread and universal with the unskilled labor now being required to learn more about computer gadgets used at work. The fast food industry ever since 1973 came to the realization of the throughput and had concentrated on greater demand for productivity from the labor.
Despite the increased wage floor since 1973, the wages had not grown on par with the price increases and the growth in wages of other professions, thus leaving the low-wage employees with little chance to make a leap up the social ladder (Cooper, 142).
The use of personality tests ever since 1973 in low wage jobs, such as urine drug tests or the questionnaires designed to weed out incompatible potential employees continue to deter potential applicants and violate their liberties, let alone contribute to the class separation and unhealthy and stressful work environment at all levels.
The last but not least are the “help needed” signs located at all present low-income job places which do not precisely indicate an opening, yet rather contribute to the sustainable and large pool of applicants to quickly substitute existing workers in the presence of high employee turnover.
Ehrenreich, Barbara, Nickel and Dimed: On (not) getting by in America, Prentice Hall, 2004 (reprint).
Cooper, Mark, Equity and Energy: Rising Energy Prices and the Living Standards of Lower Income Americans, McGraw Hill, 2003.
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