Check out my Nickel and Dimed book summary and review that I created to help you understand the basics of this great book. Nickel and Dimed: On [Not] Getting By in America is a book by Barbara Ehrenreich. From her perspective as an undercover investigative journalist, she is set to investigate the impact of the 1996 Welfare Reform Act on America's working poor.

In a way, it's like George Orwell's much earlier in Paris and London; Ganj Unten [under everything] by German investigative journalist Gunter Walraf; Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin; Or, even earlier, Robert Tracel's The Ragged-Trousard Philanthropists and Jack London's The People of the Abyss.

Nickel and Dimed

The events depicted in the book took place between the spring of 1998 and the summer of 2000. The book was first published in 2001 by Metropolitan Books. An earlier issue was published as an article in the January 1999 issue of Harper's Magazine.

 Ehrenreich later wrote a related book, Bait and Switch (published September 2005), which discusses her efforts to find an administrative job.

Nickel and Dimed book summary :

Ehrenreich investigates many of the difficulties faced by low-wage workers, including the hidden cost of basic necessities such as housing (often the poor have to pay much more to cover the daily cost of a hotel room than what they have to pay for apartment rent.

They can make security deposits and pay in the first and last month) and food (for example, the poor have to buy food that is more expensive and healthier than they would buy if they have access to the equipment needed for refrigeration and cooking).

First, he attacks the notion that unskilled labor is required for low-wage jobs. The author, a journalist with a PhD in cell biology, finds manual labor difficult, distasteful and degrading. He claims that work requires incredible strength, focus, memory, mental agility and the ability to learn quickly.

 Constant and repetitive motion creates the risk of repetitive strain injury; In the labor market, where workers have a constant turnover, they often have to work hard to get a job; And the days are filled with abusive and disgusting tasks (for example, cleaning toilets and sweeping the floor).

He described in more detail how the role of different individuals in supervisory roles initially interfered with employee productivity, forced employees to do meaningless work and made the whole experience of working for lower wages even more miserable.

Ehrenreich condemned personality tests, questionnaires designed to weed unwanted potential employees, and urine drug tests, increasingly common in low-paying job markets; He argues that they discourage potential applicants and violate personal freedom, while showing little real positive impact on work performance.

He claims that the “employee want” signs do not necessarily indicate an available position; Often their purpose is to maintain a pool of candidates in industries known for rapid employee turnover.

It further argues that a low-paying job is often not enough to support an individual (much less a family); With rising house prices and stagnant wages, living on a paycheck is becoming increasingly difficult. Many of the workers he mentions in the book survive in the same situation with relatives or others or living in their vehicles.

Ehrenreich concludes with this argument that all low-paid workers who receive government or charitable services such as welfare money, food and medical services simply do not survive on the generosity of others. On the contrary, he advises, the rest of us survive their generosity:

        When someone works for less money than they need to survive, that person has made a great sacrifice for you. The "working poor" is actually the main philanthropist of our society. They neglect their own children to take care of the children of others; They live in uncertain housing so that other homes are shiny and perfect; They have to endure deprivation so that inflation is lower and share prices are higher. Being one of those working poor is an anonymous donor, an unknown benefactor to the whole world.

The author concludes that one day the poor salaried workers will rise up and demand fair treatment and that the day will come when it will be good for all of us.

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