Thomas Bell's Out Of This Furnace

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“The more things change, the more they remain the same.” This is a sentiment very true of the labor history of the United States. Legislative reforms, such as the New Deal, have brought great reform to the workplace and created protections for employers and employees alike. It is true, however, that patterns of labor and poverty shown in Thomas Bell’s Out of This Furnace are not terribly removed from the patterns of labor and poverty of the past two decades in the United States, seen in texts such as Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed. Although labor has come a long way since the labor systems of the 1800s, the issues and patterns of the past have repeatedly resurfaced. Today’s low-wage workers occupy the same space that unskilled laborers of the …show more content…
Even though they are nearly a century and a world apart, parallels can be drawn from characters such as Bell’s Mike and Ehrenreich’s Gail. There are similarities in not only their spirit, but also the environment that they occupy. Both are idealist workers, who do everything right, find pride in their work, and consistently work hard, but still have little to no mobility. The pair are what Andrew Carnegie may have regarded as the worker bees or merely competent with no true potential for traditional success. Able to accept the status quo in order to survive, Gail and Mike are the type of workers who will always be employees in someone else’s …show more content…
The factory conditions reported by Bell are not much different than the labor conditions of Gail and Barbara at the Hearthside. Bell described factory work as long days filled with a lot of physical labor and hard work, which is similar to the strenuous labor Barbara accounts in her experiences in Nickel and Dimed. Paid at the low wages of a mere $2.43 an hour (with the addition of tips), the life of the wait staff is also physical. Food and housing were the only things that wages would usually cover in Kracha’s and Mike’s days. This standard of life is something that is still very true for low-wage workers. In Ehrenreich’s account, the reality of both food and proper accommodations was sometimes also in question: “she spent several months living in her truck, peeing in a plastic bottle and reading by candlelight at night.” Accounting that so many of her coworkers lived in hotel rooms with a number of other people or inside their car in the parking lot. Due to the environment that these workers occupied they would not even be able to live in a measly room of a boarding house as the families of Kracha’s time did. These workers, similar to the factory workers of Braddock, could not afford to have lives outside of work and sleep. Even in her account, Barbara Ehreneich finds it very challenging to have to go home and write notes for her story, because her

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