Thursday, January 07, 2010

From Nickel and Dimed

A summary of the last chapter of the book, Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich



Ehrenreich puts forth several explanations for the working poor remaining poor.

In addition to high costs of renting/housing, invisibility and lack of transportation, she cites:

  1. Low-wage people without cars are often dependent on others for transportation. A change in job could result in the loss of that transportation.
  2. Low-wage people are not often well informed about their options. They do not have the luxury of intense research into wages/benefits/future when faced with the loss of a job or even a change in job.
  3. Many low-wage people, through lack of education or experience, fall into the psychological traps devised by employers. The Maids boss, the only male, exerted a paternalistic kind of power. Wal-Mart employees are made to feel like "associates" through profit sharing plans (after several years service), meetings that are held as "pep rallies".
  4. Rules against "gossip" or even "talking" deter the building of personal relationships that may encourage the airing of grievances.
  5. Those who step out of line often face little, unexplained punishments—schedules changed, assignment to the tasks no one else wants to do, or even termination. "When you enter the low-wage workplace—and many of the medium-wage workplaces as well—you check your civil liberties at the door, leave America and all it supposedly stands for behind, and learn to zip your lips for the duration of the shift."

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