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Barbara Ehrenreich's Book: Nickle and Dimed - On Not Making It in America
an article by Ken Humphrey

Barbara Ehrenreich's book mainly tells of her experiences and those of her fellow workers as she spends a year trying to live on the wages from minimum wage jobs. She discovers that this is impossible for her and yet her fellow workers somehow struggle to live on their low earnings without benefits such as health insurance, sick pay, etc.

The main thing that stayed with me from reading the book was the matter of dependence. Ehrenreich's major point was that the workers doing the low-pay work aren't dependent on the better-off folks of American society.

Rather, she stressed that it's those of us who are better off who are really dependent on the low-pay workers doing the less-desirable jobs. For, by keeping the pay for service-type jobs at low rates, those of us who are better off are able to eat out, enjoy clean rest rooms, and buy goods at lower cost thanks to the income sacrifices of the lowly-paid workers.

Last summer I had become concerned over the situation workfare families and other poor families faced with the economy in recession. My church had formed a small social action group which was searching for some social need to focus our attention on.

As a result of reading Ehrenreich's book, I urged my church group to buy copies of the book for church members to read and discuss. By focusing our attention on the book, we have been led to devote our social action toward Middletown's poor and low-income families. I have hopes that this book will prompt concern for social action needs in our own city and nearby, leading to action working with other groups to lessen tough conditions affecting struggling families, which are to a large extent minority families.

DISCUSSION

Question(s) related to this article:


Helping the poor and low-income families, Is it the most important form of social action right now?

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LATEST READER COMMENT:

Many comments have agreed that the homeless and low-income families are an area that needs to be targeted in relation to social action. However there was a question of whether it should be a priority. Many felt there were other areas that needed to be addressed also. But its importance was not degraded. Understanding the tensions behind these social problems made it important to relate it to other social concerns. "People become more tense and violent when they have poor living options."

It is also important to take up the questions of government aid like welfare and the discrepancies in monetary allocation for those on welfare. The system makes two people work fulltime while they still live below the poverty line. All are in consensus in working to fix this problem but its priority is not agreed upon.
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This report was posted on April 13, 2002.