Where did Barbara Ehrenreich take her third low-wage position? What were her duties? How much did she earn?Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Ehrenreich took her third minimum-wage job in Minnesota because of the State's claims of a robust economy in the job and housing sectors. In this instance, she started out housing sitting for friends who were away on vacation, but soon she needs her own place and takes a room at Clearview Inn  while waiting for a better room at Hopkins Park Plaza. People with no money for security and first-and-last deposits very often have no other choice than a residential hotel.

She passes a drug test and accepts a job offer at Menards store but learns that the shifts are eleven hours and the $10 an hour that was offered may not be what she actually earns. Therefore she chooses to accept a position at Wal-Mart for $7 per hour even though she is intimidated and daunted by Wal-Mart's orientation information. Her duties at Wal-Mart are to keep the women's section cleared up, which requires familiarity with brands and styles. Her first week's shift is 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. but the second week is the busiest shopping shift, that of 2:00 p.m. to closing at 11:00 p.m. A coworker complains about Ehrenreich's work and she worries--not for the first time--that she is undergoing a personality and value transformation that is not for the better.

She is given a move in date for Hopkins Park Plaza but on the day, she is told she has to wait another week. Without anywhere to go, she stays at Comfort Inn for two days and consults with Community Emergency Services who direct her to a shelter until she is in a position to offer the deposits required to rent an apartment. Her housing options don't improve; she gets better at her work and therefore has time to think of encouraging workers to strike for a employees union. She breaks the company against time-theft and tries again to find housing without success, which spurs her to stop her experiment early and quit and go home to write her book. But first she is gratified to hear some of the other employees say that perhaps they should have a union.

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