How do booming national and international chains ** restaurants, hotels, retail outlets, cleaning services, and elder care facilities

1. How do booming national and international chains ** restaurants, hotels, retail outlets, cleaning services, and elder care facilities ** affect the treatment and aspirations of low wage workers? Consider how market competition and the push for profits drive the nickel and diming of America s lowest paid.
2. Housing costs pose the greatest obstacle for low wage workers. Why does our society seem to resist rectifying this situation? Do you believe that there are realistic solutions to the lack of affordable housing?
3. While working for The Maids, Ehrenreich hears Ted claim that he s not a bad guy . . . and cares a lot about his girls. How do the assumptions of supervisors such as Ted affect their employees? How does Ted compare to Ehrenreich s other bosses? To yours?
4. Ehrenreich is white and middle class. She asserts that her experience would have been radically different had she been a person of color or a single parent. Do you think discrimination shaped Ehrenreich s story? In what ways?

5. Ehrenreich found that she could not survive on $7.00 per hour ** not if she wanted to live indoors. Consider how her experiment would have played out in your community: limiting yourself to $7.00 per hour earnings, create a hypothetical monthly budget for your part of the country.

6. Ehrenreich experienced remarkable goodwill, generosity, and solidarity among her colleagues. Does this surprise you? How do you think your own colleagues measure up?

7. Why do you think low wage workers are reluctant to form labor organizations as Ehrenreich discovered at Wal Mart? How do you think employees should lobby to improve working conditions?

8. Many campus and advocacy groups are currently involved in struggles for a living wage. How do you think a living wage should be calculated?

9. Were you surprised by the casual reactions of Ehrenreich s coworkers when she revealed herself as an undercover writer? Were you surprised that she wasn t suspected of being different or out of place despite her graduate level education and usually comfortable lifestyle?

10. How does managers scrutiny ** time theft crackdowns and drug testing ** affect workers morale? How can American companies make the workplace environment safe and efficient without treating employees like suspected criminals?

11. Ehrenreich concluded that had her working life been spent in a Wal Mart ** like environment, she would have emerged a different person ** meaner, pettier, Barb instead of Barbara. How would your personality change if you were placed in working conditions very different from the ones you are in now?

12. Many of Ehrenreich s colleagues relied heavily on family ** for housing and help with child care, by sharing appliances and dividing up the cooking, shopping, and cleaning. Do you think Americans make excessive demands on the family unit rather than calling for the government to help those in need?

13. Nickel and Dimed takes place in 1998 2000, a time of unprecedented prosperity in America. Do you think Ehrenreich s experience would be different in today s economy? How so?

14. After reading Nickel and Dimed, do you think that having a job ** any job ** is better than no job at all? Did this book make you feel angry? Better informed? Relieved that someone has finally described your experience? Galvanized to do something?

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