Nickel And Dimed Analysis
In her book, ‘Nickel and Dimed’, Ehrenreich has explored the hardships of living as a minimum wage worker. On several occasions, Ehrenreich has defended the position of minimum wage workers, who according to her, sink deeper into debt and despair, despite having worked really hard (120). Ehrenreich has presented an argument against existing minimum wages, labor laws, and cheap consumerism, by detailing the state of minimum wage workers as they suffer in terms of health, convenience, and quality of life. Given the rise of globalization and cheap labor throughout the world, Ehrenreich has made a reasonable attempt to point out the loopholes in the drive to produce cheaper products. According to Ehrenreich, this comes at the cost of the wage-workers giving up a portion of their money which could have been spent on their health, care, and overall betterment. Hence, her argument is relevant to the present situation in a globalized economy. Additionally, Ehrenreich’s argument appropriately applies to those minimum wage workers who seek to pay through college or earn themselves a living. Ehrenreich’s argument is a true depiction of the lives of minimum wage workers and as such addresses the key issues such as health in the wake of low paying jobs.
‘Nickel and Dimed’ has presented an argument against minimum wages, labor laws, and cheap consumerism. Ehrenreich has consolidated her argument by demonstrating how life is as a minimum wage worker. Ehrenreich emphasizes that it is often difficult to pay bills, especially the rent as it amounted to a huge percent of the salary (108). Earning a mere $6 or $7 per hour already exposes workers to risks of declining health, rising debt, and psychological unrest. At one point, Ehrenreich mentions the only time her revenues actually offset her expenses were when she worked throughout the week and worked two jobs. This shows that it is very hard to earn a decent amount of money without overworking oneself (Ehrenreich, 16). Often the costs involved are also huge. To have money, one must give up convenience or peace. Earning enough to cover all basic expenses by working odd jobs means that a person has to work beyond their capacity. Hence a person is exposed to several risks at the workplace. Some employers may even run from their responsibility of providing safety and a secure working environment (Ehrenreich, 14).
The whole point of explaining minimum wage life is to point out its deficiencies as the minimum wage is barely enough to afford an individual’s basic necessities of life. So minimum wage does not reflect the basic human rights of an individual but is only enough for an individual to survive. Thus having a stipulated minimum wage for workers does not guarantee them a high quality of life which significantly hurts their standard of living. In addition global economic forces have also worked against minimum wage workers. An increase consumer trend towards more value products and cheap goods has oriented organizations towards cost-saving approaches, which mostly means cutting down wages and seeking cheaper labor. As such many organizations may only pay minimum wages to their employees and that too because of the government imposition of a price floor. This means lower wages for workers and miserable lives for them at the cost of value goods for the well-off people.
Ehrenreich has therefore made a convincing argument in her book against the conventional view of minimum wages. Stipulating a minimum wage does not mean that it will meet the needs of the workers but in most cases, the minimum wage does not provide enough for a person to live a comfortable life. Minimum wage is the convention among many employers as an hourly pay rate. However, compensation barely meets the needs of workers. Another issue is that the minimum wage has not been defined to include reasonable basic necessities such as shelter, heating, utilities, and taxation. Tax cut still applies for minimum wage workers despite the fact that their pay is not enough for them. Most importantly minimum wage does not account for other components that make up a good standard of life such as education. The strength of Nickel and Dimed lies in its true representation of minimum wage life. The book has reinforced the arguments against minimum wage because the price floor does more harm than protecting workers. However, the weakness of the argument was that it overly-focused on depicting minimum wage workers as desperate beings. In many cases, a minimum wage worker may not be an individual who is earning bread for a family but a student hoping to pay for college or a person doing a summer job. Overall though, Ehrenreich’s argument is convincing because it relates to the real-life woes of odd-job workers.
Works Cited Ehrenreich, Barbara. Nickel And Dimed. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2001. Print.