New Founded Struggles For Low-wage Workers Living In America

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Low wage workers during the prosperity period in the nineties lived in a time where the economy was booming and technological advancements were being made. What this meant for workers in America was that companies and businesses posted more job openings to keep up with the demand that came with the boom, which indicates the significant drop in unemployment. In comparison to the economy during the great recession, which took place between 2007 to 2009, the economy was experiencing a downturn that left many Americans unemployed and skyrocketed unemployment rates. Now, under the presidency of Trump, the economy is stable and very similar to that of the nineties when it comes to low unemployment rates. However, ‘we are not seeing the increases in productivity and wages that we saw in that period’ (Long, para. 21). Therefore, if Ehrenreich, writer of the book Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America, would perform her experiment on working low wage jobs after the prosperity period, her experiences would change drastically throughout each time period. Although each period of time has its own advantages and struggles, there are new challenges low-income people face in the present day that they did not face during the prosperity period and great recession, such as their unsustainable wages,…

An issue low-wage workers face are the health consequences from working low-wage jobs. As presented by Ehrenreich in her book Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America, she shares the levels of exhaustion she had to endure while working as a low-wage employee during the economic prosperity period. Early in Ehrenreich’s experiment, she soon felt that strain on her body from all the exhaustion she endured when she described how her “flesh seem[ed] to bond to the seat” (Ehrenreich 32), after completing her duties as a housekeeper, and then continued working at her shift at Jerry’s. This is a common theme in everyday life in every period of time for low-wage workers working more than one job or just working long hours. Their body goes through physical strain from the harsh labor they face in their time working, and eventually gets worse as their time spent working in these low-paying jobs progress. In the same way low-wage employees of the prosperity period faced health problems, employees of the great recession experienced higher levels of stress and depression, due to the fact that “[employers] didn’t have to treat people particularly well” (“How the Great Recession,” 2018). This gave employers the freedom to increase hours or cut the benefits of their employees, such as health care, that was once a luxury during the prosperity period. As a result of this treatment, job satisfaction for those who had a job during the great recession plummeted, when in the past during other recessions, job satisfaction would be high, solely because it was a privilege to have a job in the first place. The change in job satisfaction correlates to employers taking advantage of their employees, hence the increase in stress and depression among low-wage workers during the great recession. Furthermore, with the continuous patterns among employers cutting employee benefits, now after the great recession, it is quite rare for low-wage workers to get their hands on a job where they are able to receive benefits through their job, especially because of the shorter hours and irregular schedules. On the monthly wage low-earning employees earn, along with the inability to receive health benefits, the contemporary low-income workers are unable to pay for their own health insurance out of pocket. The results of going a long time without being covered are further health consequences “because they[low-wage workers] receive less preventive care” (“Key Facts about,” 2018). Overall, the physical exhaustion occurring in the prosperity period is still prevalent in today’s working experience, along with that of the great recession. The major difference is that as each time period proceeds, the health problems, such as stress and depression, seem to be rising for low-wage workers due to the long hours, increase in irregular work schedules, and decrease in benefits.

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Another issue low-wage workers face is the job openings, along with the wages earned once the job is obtained. During the prosperity period, many walk-in jobs were available, as stated by Ehrenreich in the article Turning Poverty Into an American Crime, “I had been able to walk into a number of jobs pretty much off the street” (para. 8). This made it fairly easy for any person to find an available low-paying job. Also, between 1989 to 1999, earnings increased by 6.9%, including wages for low-income employees. With that said, Ehrenreich does point out the difficulties she has living on her earnings in her book Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America, such as struggling to keep up with her monthly living expenses. But interestingly enough, although “One in five employees lost their jobs at the beginning of the Great Recession” (“How the Great Recession,” 2018”), the minimum wage increased to $7.25 when it was previously $5.15. The increase made it easier on the low-wage workers to make their payments on time, and was an all over government attempt to help the economy grow through supply and demand. Since the recession, a common element among the prosperity period and today are that more jobs have been opening up. However, a noticeable difference between now and then are that as living expenses, such as rent, transportation, and insurance have increased, “there are still 21 states where the minimum wage remains frozen at $7.25” (Leonhardt, para. 10). Where the minimum wage increase helped those during the great recession with their living expenses, it does not meet the same standing for low-wage workers now.

The final issue low-wage workers face are their financial struggles due to inflation, which is when something increases in value, such as goods and services. 


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