Barbara Ehrenreich - Ehrenreich is the author of this work. She attempts to find out if single mothers could make ends meet with low-wage jobs and no Welfare assistance.
Lewis Lapham - Lapham is the editor of Harper’s, with whom Ehrenreich develops the idea for her investigation.
Gail - Gail is the “middle-aged wiry waitress” from the Hearthside; she is responsible for training Ehrenreich.
Billy - Billy is a cook at the Hearthside. He has a temper and is frequently mean to the female servers.
Lionel - Lionel is the Haitian busboy at the Hearthside.Timmy - Timmy is the fourteen-year-old white busboy at the Hearthside. Joan - Joan is the “svelte fortyish hostess” at the Hearthside. Phillip - Phillip is a manager at the Hearthside. Stu - Stu is a cook at the Hearthside. Joy - Joy is “a plump, blowsy woman in her early thirties”; she is a manager at Jerry’s. B.J. - B.J. is the other manager at Jerry’s. She is mean and disliked by the employees.
Nina - Nina is “a tattooed twenty-something” waitress at Jerry’s.
Ellen - Ellen is a waitress who once managed a restaurant in Massachusetts but will not try to manage at Jerry’s because she does not like ordering people around.
Lucy - Lucy is in her fifties and easygoing. She is a waitress at Jerry’s.
George - George is a nineteen-year-old Czech dishwasher at Jerry’s who has been in the country for only a week when Ehrenreich meets him.
Millie - Millie is the housekeeping manager.
Carlotta - Carlotta is a “middle-aged African American woman” who trains Ehrenreich in housekeeping.
Linda - Linda is Ehrenreich’s supervisor at the nursing home in Maine. She is “a kindly-looking woman of about thirty.”