Nickel and Dimed Study Guide

Chapter 3 Summary Continued

Ehrenreich moves out of the Clearview and attempts to move into Hopkins Park Plaza. However, the management tells her she has misunderstood and her room will not be ready until next week. She realizes she would not have been able to live there for very long anyhow on her Wal-Mart wages. She wanted to get a second job, but has no control over her Wal-Mart hours, so she is unable to do so. Ehrenreich calls numerous places, but they are all either full or too far away. Finally, she ends up at a hotel. She feels defeated. She attempts to find help from a charitable agency, but comes away with only a box full of fairly useless items, including candy, cookies, and a canned ham.

Ehrenreich feels much better sleeping in the hotel. She stops picking at her clothing. At work, she reaches new levels of speediness and begins to feel better about the customers. She wonders why anyone puts up with the wages they are paid at Wal-Mart. Ehrenreich decides to urge her fellow employees to unionize. She meets new people and discusses her ideas. Some people plan to work somewhere else or return to school. Others share her spirit, but seem unwilling to put the effort into organizing. Then 1,450 local hotel and restaurant employees go on strike. Ehrenreich quits the next day, but she notices some employees pay attention to the local strike. She believes if she had stayed a little longer, she might have been able to help organize a union.


Notes - This chapter focuses on three important aspects of being a low-wage worker, which Ehrenreich has not yet addressed: the costly application process, the perhaps class-ist drug test, and the importance of unionizing. Ehrenreich realizes that the application process requires a lot of time. It takes her hours to drive to numerous places filling out the actual applications. She spends two hours for one drug test. Moreover, there is the wait period in between filling out the applications, meeting for an interview, taking the drug test, and then waiting for the results. She notes that in addition to the cost of one’s time, there is gas money to consider as well as the price of a babysitter if someone has children.

Ehrenreich takes issue with the drug test. She notes that the only drug which is truly detectable after a reasonable amount of time is marijuana. She thinks this drug is perhaps the most innocuous of those for which potential employees are tested, and thinks the test is an unreasonable predictor for the reliability of future employees.

Finally, and most important to Ehrenreich in this chapter, is the issue of unions. Ehrenreich comes from a proud tradition of unionization, and although she was not interested in helping others unionize during the 1960s, issues of fair employment remain important to her. She frequently wonders why employees put up with unfair working conditions throughout this book. However, this is the first time she considers actively organizing her colleagues.

Ehrenreich realizes in this chapter that low-wage employment for single women with children is not sufficient. As a single woman with no children, Ehrenreich would not have been able to continue her lifestyle without a second job or a husband. Her experiment ends in Minnesota, and it seems that she has effectively answered her initial question of whether or not single women with children would be able to survive without Welfare.

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