In the wake of the 1996 American welfare reforms, Barbara Ehrenreich decides to go undercover as a member of the working class. She works as a waitress in Florida, a maid and nursing home attendant in Maine, and a retail worker in Minnesota. Her experiences are varied, but in the end she reaches some overarching and unsurprising conclusions — that it’s near-impossible to live a healthy, happy life on the minimum wage. Readers who have worked in low-paying jobs in the service industry will find much of the book unsurprising (and, often, maddening), but for others this book may be an eye-opener.
“My guess is that the indignities imposed on so many low-wage workers – the drug tests, the the constant surveillance, being “reamed out” by managers – are part of what keeps wages low. If you’re made to feel unworthy enough, you may come to think that what you’re paid is what you’re worth.”
Barbara Ehrenreich is a journalist and author. Her books include Living with a Wild God, Nickel and Dimed, and This Land is Their Land. In 2011, she began the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, which promotes excellence in reporting on poverty.
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