Picador is marking the tenth anniversary of Barbara Ehrenreich’s modern classic “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America,” in which she chronicled her attempts to make a life on minimum wage in three states, with a special anniversary edition. The new edition includes an excellent afterword by Ehrenreich (reprinted in part at TomDispatch), in which she takes stock of the past ten years and revisits some of the workers she met while reporting her book.
This piece reminded me of an incident when my library book group read Nickel and Dimed a year or two after it came out. One of the employers that Ehrenreich studied was Wal-Mart. A woman had recently joined the group; the discussion of this book was her second or third time with us. At the end of the discussion she announced angrily that she had worked at Wal-Mart after retiring and liked her job there.
She never came back to the group. Apparently she was unable to distinguish between someone who took the job as supplementary income and something to do after retirement, and someone who, like an uneducated single mother, had no other work options.
It always saddens me to see reading close rather than open someone’s mind.
Read this short article to see how the working situation has deteriorated rather than improved for the nation’s working poor.