Barbara Ehrenreich, the author of the book Nickel and Dimed, focuses on the lifestyle of low-income earners in America coupled with the many problems they contend with daily. Ironically, America is among the world’s highly developed countries of all the times. Additionally, during independence, it declared equal working and living conditions on top of happiness for all its citizens as outlined in the famous ‘American Dream.’
However, the treatment of the American poor workers negate its robust economical growth over the years; actually, for low-income earners, the ‘American Dream’ is just that; a dream and as things appear, it will remain an ever-elusive dream that only existed in the dreaming of the likes of Martin Luther et al.
Ehrenreich personally encounters the evil treatment as an American worker. She realizes that whether one is a low-income earner African-American or purely an American citizen he/she faces homelessness, squalid working conditions, and poor payment.
Ehrenreich encountered difficulties in securing a job, poor working conditions, mistreatment from managements, poor and expensive housing rates among other pertinent issues affect every other low-income earner in the might America. In Florida Ehrenreich is unable to get a good job forcing her to secure a low-wage paying job.
The first place she secures a job is in a restaurant called ‘Hearthside’ where she is to work as a waiter for two weeks. Her working hours are from 2.00 to 10.00 pm at only $2.43 per hour.
Hearthside managers do not allow her to rest or even sit while at work. On the contrary, they sit down from morning to evening. Due to their selfish nature, they do not care about the plight of their employees nor customers rather all they want is money.
Additionally the supervisors disrespect and do not pay attention to the employees on top of delaying their payments without apparent reason. This shows the poor treatment of the American worker and exposes the pipe dream that is the ‘American dream’ has degenerated into; equal opportunities to all, liberty and pursuit of happiness exists but only on paper if not in dreamland.
From her earnings, Ehrenreich is unable to afford basic needs like housing, food, and health services. This is an irony because America’s economy is one of the best in the world with a growth domestic product of about $14.7 trillion.
Luckily, Jerry’s restaurant employs her as a waiter again. Unfortunately, there is oppression and poor working conditions. The kitchen is in poor condition while the bathroom is unequipped not to mention long working hours. Although she has a job, she lives in a trailer, which is tiny and not comfortable.
All employees are mistreated yet they work selflessly and this underscores the treatment and life of a low-income American worker. Interestingly, two of the Americans dreams are the dream of abundance and that of democracy of goods, yet its citizens are unable to live in good houses. Ehrenreich lives in a trailer park because of low wages that she earns. After a short time, she decides to quit the job.
This aspect ridicules the American economy as among the most successful economy in the world. The third job Ehrenreich picks up is house keeping in a hotel. She is to earn $6.10 a day; unfortunately, the job lasts only for a day for it turns out to be too demanding for her to cope.
There are many customers to serve hence she is deprived of sleep. When Joy, one of the supervisor’s screams at her, she feels intimidated and quits the job. Again, the plight of a poor American worker surfaces; they work as slaves hence the American dream of liberty and pursuit of happiness violated.
Ehrenreich relocates to Maine because most of the residents there are whites hence she expects a better life. On the contrary, she is unable to get a good and cheap house and therefore lives in a cottage. There are many jobs in Maine but the payments are much far lower compared to that of Key West, Florida.
Talk of going for the greener grass across the fence only to realize it grows on sewage. Here she luckily manages to secure a cleaning serve job where she works on weekdays, and supplements it by working in a hospital over the weekends to supplements her meager wages.
Ironically, she is unable to meet her basic needs due to high living conditions yet she has two jobs at a go. This is an irony because economically, America ranks first in the world’s economies meaning it is highly developed but its citizens’ living conditions do not measure up to the economic vibrancy experienced here.
The virtue of good neighborliness is absent in Maine as Ehrenreich encounters rude and unfriendly people. America dreams of pursuit for happiness, liberty, abundance, and novelty are outstandingly absent. Unfortunately, this is the day-to-day life experiences of the poor American worker.
Finally, Ehrenreich moves to Minnesota but she is unable to get a house hence she lives in a hotel, which is extremely expensive. All the jobs she applies for have a bureaucratic application process; however, she finally secures a job at Wal-Mart. She forms a welfare union, which does not hold because she again leaves the job.
In Minnesota there is mistreatment and lack of trust from employers; another plight of the poor American worker. Despite America being developed, most of its citizens are languishing in abject poverty.
Ehrenreich describes the difficulties experienced by Americans citizens especially those employed on temporary basis. This is out of expectation because America is the most developed nation in the world hence has a powerful economy.
Poor treatment and poor working conditions are the orders of the day. In addition, there are no available jobs, houses, and health insurance for Americans citizens. In a recap, American workers who depend on wages face, homelessness, poor pay, and working conditions. What more can define poverty?