Nickel and Dimed

Drug Tests Symbol Analysis

Drug Tests Symbol Icon
At nearly all of Barbara’s jobs, from waitressing to sorting ladies’ wear at Wal-Mart, drug testing is either threatened or required. At one point, Barbara cites research showing that in one study, out of hundreds of thousands of drug tests and millions of dollars spent, less than a hundred prospective employees failed the test. She argues that rather than a true safety or security measure, drug testing symbolizes and underlines the deep suspicion and sense of distrust that many employers have for their employees. They fail to consider low-wage workers as human beings deserving of the same kind of dignity as anyone else. To complete a drug test, a prospective employee has to drive to a hospital or doctor’s office and usually pee into a cup without the benefit of much privacy. The process is meant to remind the prospective worker that he or she is in a position of dependency on the employer and lower-class status.

Drug Tests Quotes in Nickel and Dimed

The Nickel and Dimed quotes below all refer to the symbol of Drug Tests. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Economics of Poverty Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Henry Holt & Company edition of Nickel and Dimed published in 2008.
Chapter 3 Quotes

There’s no intermediate point in the process in which you confront the potential employer as a free agent, entitled to cut her own deal. The intercalation of the drug test between application and hiring tilts the playing field even further, establishing that you, and not the employer, are the one who has something to prove. Even in the tightest labor market—and it doesn’t get any tighter than Minneapolis, where I would probably have been welcome to apply at any commercial establishment I entered—the person who has precious labor to sell can be made to feel one down, way down, like a supplicant with her hand stretched out.

Related Characters: Barbara Ehrenreich (speaker)
Related Symbols: Drug Tests
Page Number: 149
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other Nickel and Dimed quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!
Evaluation Quotes

What surprised and offended me most about the low-wage workplace (and yes, here all my middle-class privilege is on full display) was the extent to which one is required to surrender one’s basic civil rights and—what boils down to the same thing—self-respect.

Related Characters: Barbara Ehrenreich (speaker)
Related Symbols: Drug Tests
Page Number: 208
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

My guess is that the indignities imposed on so many low-wage workers—the drug tests, the constant surveillance, being “reamed out” by managers—are part of what keeps wages low. If you’re made to feel unworthy enough, you may come to think that what you’re paid is what you’re actually worth.

Related Characters: Barbara Ehrenreich (speaker)
Related Symbols: Drug Tests
Page Number: 211
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Get the entire Nickel and Dimed LitChart as a printable PDF.
Nickel and dimed.pdf.medium

Drug Tests Symbol Timeline in Nickel and Dimed

The timeline below shows where the symbol Drug Tests appears in Nickel and Dimed. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: Serving in Florida
The Economics of Poverty Theme Icon
Shame and Solidarity Theme Icon
...is told to go to a doctor’s office the next day for a urine test: drug testing is a general rule for low-wage work, she discovers. She thinks the $6-an-hour wage... (full context)
Shame and Solidarity Theme Icon
Individuals and Corporate Rhetoric Theme Icon
...all brought into the kitchen at 3:30 p.m., and Phillip announces that there’s been some “drug activity” on the night shift. Now, all new hires will be tested, and current employees... (full context)
Chapter 3: Selling in Minnesota
Individuals and Corporate Rhetoric Theme Icon
...else Roberta can’t remember. Barbara expresses wholehearted agreement. All that’s left is to pass the drug test. Unfortunately, Barbara has had a slight “indiscretion” in the past few weeks involving marijuana,... (full context)
The Economics of Poverty Theme Icon
Shame and Solidarity Theme Icon
...Paul says she’d be good in plumbing at $8.50, as long as she passes a drug test. (full context)
Shame and Solidarity Theme Icon
Individuals and Corporate Rhetoric Theme Icon
On Monday, drug test day, Barbara goes to a chiropractor’s office for the Wal-Mart test. She is sent... (full context)
Individuals and Corporate Rhetoric Theme Icon
Barbara continues applying for jobs, since she doesn’t yet know the drug tests results. She applies for one entry-level customer service job, involving a group interview conducted... (full context)
Individuals and Corporate Rhetoric Theme Icon
...partners, but still, there’s no signs of complaining or resentment. Maybe it’s what happens when drug tests and personality “surveys” create a uniformly servile workplace, she thinks. But Wal-Mart is also... (full context)
The Economics of Poverty Theme Icon
Individuals and Corporate Rhetoric Theme Icon
...Melissa’s unwillingness to start up again searching for another job, with the applications, interviews, and drug tests. (full context)
Evaluation
The Economics of Poverty Theme Icon
...else use a bike, which limits range. Just filling out applications, being interviewed, and taking drug tests is a hassle and leads to more time without work. (full context)
Shame and Solidarity Theme Icon
Individuals and Corporate Rhetoric Theme Icon
...basic civil rights: her purse could be searched at any time at the restaurant, and drug testing is a routine degrading act that has the function of keeping employees “in their... (full context)
The Economics of Poverty Theme Icon
Shame and Solidarity Theme Icon
Individuals and Corporate Rhetoric Theme Icon
...they tend to distrust these people and spend great amounts of money on things like drug and personality testing. Barbara identifies a broader parallel between this sort of corporate behavior and... (full context)