Nickel and Dimed On (Not) Getting By in America
Written as an exposé, Ehrenreich attempts to combat the "too lazy to work" and "a job will defeat poverty" ideals held by traditionalists. Foremost, she attacks the notion that low-wage jobs require "unskilled" labor. The author, a journalist with a Ph.D. in cell biology, found manual labor taxing, uninteresting and degrading. She says that the work required incredible feats of stamina, focus, memory, quick thinking, and fast learning. Constant and repeated movement creates a risk of repetitive stress injury, pain must often be worked through to hold a job in a market with constant turnover; and the days are filled with degrading and uninteresting tasks (e.g. toilet-cleaning and shirt-reordering). She also details several individuals in management roles who served mainly to interfere with worker productivity, force employees to undertake pointless tasks, and make the entire low-wage work experience even more miserable.She claims "personality" tests, questionnaires designed to weed out "incompatible" potential employees, and urine drug tests, increasingly common in the low wage market, deter potential applicants and violate liberties while having little tangible positive effect on work performance.She reports that "help needed" signs don't necessarily indicate an opening; more often their purpose is to sustain a pool of applicants to safeguard against rapid turnover of employees. She also argues one low wage job is often not enough to support one person (let alone a family); with inflating housing prices and stagnant wages, this practice increasingly becomes difficult to maintain. Many of the workers encountered in the book survive by living with relatives or other persons in the same position, or even in their vehicles.