Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America

by Barbara Ehrenreich

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What does Ehrenreich mean by the term "wage slave" in Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America?

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Barbara Ehrenreich uses the term "wage slave" to describe the situation in which many of her coworkers in the book find themselves. They are employed and are being paid, so they can be called wage earners. However, the wages they are receiving are so low that they cannot begin to cover the expenses involved in living, such as paying for housing and food and work uniforms and health care. However, the workers frequently have no alternative but to continue working for the inadequate wages they are receiving because they have no transportation to a better work location, no training to take a better-paying job, or no energy to undertake the process of searching for alternative employment. In that sense, the workers are slaves to the situations in which they are trapped.

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