Essay about Nickel And Dimed, By Barbara Ehrenreich

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An emergency is a serious, unexpected, often dangerous situation that requires immediate action. In her book, Nickel and Dimed, writer Barbara Ehrenreich uses the term emergency to describe how low-wage working Americans should be seen: “…we should see the poverty of so many millions of low-wage Americans-as a state of emergency.” (214). Workers are in this desperate situation due to low-wages and long hours, unaffordable housing, as well as an employment system that succeeds in keeping workers down. Through her 1998 undercover investigation as a low-wage worker in three different states, Ehrenreich discovers that low-wage workers experience extremely poor living conditions only to barely survive from day-to-day.
Low wages are at the heart of the reason why these workers are in a state of emergency. While making plans for her investigation, Ehrenreich assumes she will be able to find a wage of $7 an hour. Her first job in Florida is as a waitress at the Hearthside restaurant where she earns $2.43 an hour plus tips giving her an average wage of $5.15 an hour, roughly the minimum wage, and, later, gets a secondary job at another restaurant “Jerry’s” making on average $7.50 an hour and later in housekeeping at $6.10 an hour. This means that just to maintain her living plans for a $7 hourly rate she would have to work 54.5 hours a week as a waitress at Hearthside or 46 hours a week in housekeeping. It is at Hearthside where she notices the work disparity between managers and…

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