As a response to both Bill Clinton's introduction of the “Welfare Reform” putting an end to what he called “Welfare as we know it” and to the journalistic tendency of writing articles on the people far from the ground, Barbara Ehrenreich – of course a bit forced by her editor – decides to look for poverty and live it in everyday life assuming for that purpose to work as a low wage worker for a couple of months, i.e. trying to make ends meet with $6 or $7 per hour.
Barbara Ehrenreich, is a political essayist, who although is specialized in Chemistry and Physics (she owns a PhD), wrote a couple of essays dealing with societal and cultural issues. She can also be regarded as a journalist, she has already written for many well-known magazines and newspapers like The Nation, the New Republic, Time, and the New York Times Magazine.
At the beginning of her book, she specifies that she doubted herself of having the right profile for the job but with time the reader notes that she is discovering realities she couldn't have imagined before and seems always more motivated about her inquiry.
[...] The fact is, that the chief of the low wage worker, isn't generally paid much more than the average workers, but as intermediate between the poor worker and the corporate delegates, it gets the objectives and orders often in a very neglecting way. So he takes his revenge on the “pain killers”, who besides doing dirty jobs have to suffer the cruelty of their chiefs. They make the workers feel that they owe them something and that the time the employees spend on their workplace doesn't belong to them but to the boss. [...]
[...] It brings Barbara Ehrenreich to such a point of rage and anger, that she goes to her boss in Portland in order to complain that: undermines my efficiency when I have to work alongside people who are crying, fainting, starving or otherwise visibly suffering.” The principle of low wage: a negation of human nature In Barbara Ehrenreich's book one discovers things one couldn't have imagined before. To this extent, the scenes in which she is comparing her living situation with the one from the REAL working poor is particularly fascinating. [...]
[...] The toughness of the tasks One of the elements pointed out by Barbara Ehrenreich in Nickel and Dimed is the extreme conditions of working. She explains that there were some times, especially when she worked as a maid, when she was meant to work for four hours without any break. And once the work is done, one assigns you new tasks in order to push up the productivity of the team. The rule here is to sweat and sweat again. [...]
[...] In this respect, she fixed various rules duties and rights that she had to meet. For instance, she wasn't allowed to make any allusion neither to her long work experience nor to her education, she allocated herself a car and promised not to sleep in it and to eat regularly. The conditions of the “experiment” were to take the highest-paying job and hold while having the “cheapest accommodation I could find”. Barb', divorced homemaker” with 3 years of college, was therefore ready to throw herself into the low wage jobs. [...]
[...] Miss Ehrenreich reports this and says that she herself felt she was becoming nothing and writes on her “suddenly acquired insignificance”. In effect, according to the tasks working poor have to do cleaning, washing, and serving it is not astonishing that they don't look at themselves very proudly. What we can affirm here is that the result of all this is that low wage workers, start to think what others think of them, namely that they deserve their situation and that they are not capable of doing something else and earn more. [...]
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