Nickle and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich
1. How well did Barbara Ehrenreich do in terms of uncovering what it’s really like to work as a low-wage worker in the U.S.?
I think she did a pretty good job. I would've liked to read more in terms of backgrounds of the people she meets along the way. It'd be nice to figure out what happened to George the dishwasher from Eastern Europe who had give a dollar of every five he made to the guy who shipped him over. I like to see how many people from Eastern Europe were sent over to work who were basically indentured servants. So I generally like to see more background of where they went and what happened to them. What happened to poor Holly did she lose her baby? Did she leave her crappy boyfriend who beats her up and makes her work even though she's pregnant? I also don't think she talked a lot about drug and alcohol abuse. I know many of the people had problems with both in the past that are stuck in the jobs but it be interesting to know if they continue in the future. In-depth interviews after she left would've been really interesting.
2. What could she have done differently to create a more realistic “experiment?”
She started out with lots of money and a rental car. Most people don't have the money for first and last months rent and cars are a huge expense that most poor people simply can't afford. So I guess she started out with a lot more money start up money than most poor people do. And even with all of her start of money she still was stuck in a hotel at one point during the book so can you imagine how horrible would be for regular person who doesn't have a start up money to move.
3. Which character from the book, other than Barbara, did you sympathize with most? Why? If you don't sympathize with any, why?
Holly the pregnant maid had the saddest life. I feel the worst for Holly because she was trying so hard to better herself. She really wanted to do well in her job and I do not believe it was because her boyfriend would beat her if she didn't go to work I believe it's because Holly envisioned a better life just around the corner. The sad part about Holly is that there was no light at the end of her tunnel. So even if she had done well there was no great prize waiting for her. What makes her the most empathetic character is her eagerness to please.
4. Have your own experiences with low wage work been similar/different than what she experienced? If yes, how so? If no, why do you think this is?
Both of my parents have worked low wage jobs in the last five years to try to make ends meet along with their full-time jobs out in the real world. I look at this book a great deal differently than most of my classmates because I am not from a wealthy family. I believe where their experiences differ from the experiences of the people in the book is that they are not working low-wage jobs to eat. The low-wage jobs my parents take are a second income that they bank for my brother and I to go to college or for tutors and that kind of thing, again for my brother and I. I think it would be different if the low-wage jobs that they took over the years were to feed themselves or us. My mother does data entry for large Corporation who doesn't even know her name. When I was younger she worked at Home Depot, so I had to laugh when she made fun of Menard's in the book because my mom actually worked at Home Depot so that was kind of funny. I think my parents have a better time with their second jobs because they know no one's going to starve if they don't get in an extra 10 or 15hrs. a week.
5. What were you most surprised/not surprised with about her findings or the conditions that she encountered?
I think maybe it's just because Ive lived on Bainbridge Island for the past 4 years but it never occurred to me that real people live in hotels. My family is not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination but I can honestly say it never occurred to me for any one day of my life that families would live in a hotel that had jobs. I assumed everyone that lived in hotels were drug addicts ,alcoholics or crazy or all three maybe. I am very surprised, shocked even, to hear that normal people live in hotels, that's just awful.
6. In the film “Roger and Me,” what were the negative effects on the community of closing auto plants in Flint, MI?
30,000 people are put out of work and the entire town nearly shuts down. The crime rate soars with shootouts and murders becoming common. He shows all the abandoned buildings and it looks like a ghost town. Many of the town's residents have turned crime to try to get by. I read in Wikipedia that Nightline did a story on all the plant closings and somebody stole the news van and it stopped the broadcast. Later money magazine names the town the worst place to live in America.
7. What was the individual and community response to the shutdowns?
Many people moved away to look for other jobs leaving abandoned houses and buildings everywhere. A lot of people turn to crime and the crime rate goes way up. Some of the wealthy people that live in the rich houses nearby make fun of the crisis and higher the out of work people to become statues at a roaring 20s party which seems insensitive and cruel. The people getting tossed out of their houses especially the ones on Christmas Eve or heart-wrenching and sad
8. As the largest employer in Flint, what responsibility did GM have to the community and the workers in Flint?
Legally probably none, but morally it would seem a phaseout of jobs over time would be a more positive public relations way to handle a plant closeure. Maybe moving everybody to Mexico or offering them a job elsewhere would have been at least in terms of a PR standpoint a better thing to do.
9. Did Michael Moore give a fair interpretation of the events that were taking place in Flint in 1989? How so?
I think Michael Moore gives a pretty good interpretation of events taking place and I think he has a special viewpoint because he's actually from the area. I think an outsider doesn't have enough street cred inside his own community to make leaps of judgment and assertions about how things used to be compared to how things are now. Michael Moore knew what this place look like when he lived there and growing up and I believe he gives a pretty good representation of the long-term effects of the number one employer in a town leaving suddenly.
10. Is “Roger and Me” good muckraking? Why or why not? Specific Examples?
I believe it is very good muckraking. Talking about the 1920s party where people were hired statues seems deliberately cruel and evil and makes the rich people look evil that's darn good muckraking! It's also amazing seeing the abandoned buildings it looks like a ghost town. The entire section of the movie that shows people being evicted especially the ones on Christmas Eve are especially heart wrenching. He showed all the boarded-up stores that used to be bustling with customers and business that laid there abandoned now and then contrasted it with the rich people out on golf courses laughing and drinking. I also think he made a good point when he tried to interview the owner of GM over and over again and he never gave up it looked like he was fighting for the little man right up to the very end even though he could've been tossed in jail and most people would've given up by then that's very good muckraking indeed.