After spending all his money on a two-day drinking binge, Jurgis returns to Aniele's tenement. Aniele reprimands him for squandering money on alcohol while his family starves and his wife's corpse awaits burial.
Jurgis's miserable alcohol addiction has begun to hinder not just his own well-being, but his family's, too.
Elzbieta begs enough money from the neighbors to hold a mass for Ona and purchase some bread. She returns to Aniele's and implores Jurgis to pull himself together and support his own children.
Jurgis was the family's only financial support; without him, they are reduced to begging for food.
Jurgis returns to the fertilizer mill, hoping to resume his job, but he is told that he will not be able to work. He stands with a crowd of the unemployed until they are driven away by policemen. He passes by a packing plant and is told that if he shows up the next morning, he will be able to work pushing a truck.
Attacking Connor has cost Jurgis his livelihood. The man who abused Jurgis's wife gets off without any penalty, and in fact is so connected that he can punish Jurgis. This is corruption at work.
The next morning, Jurgis returns to the man who offered him a job, only to be denied. He has been blacklisted by the entire packing industry—this is how the industry controls its workforce. Ashamed, Jurgis tells the women at home of his situation, and it is decided that Jurgis will strike out on his own and look for work downtown.
Downtown, work is inconsistent, and Jurgis hunts for jobs alongside many other destitute, homeless workers. Luckily, Jurgis chances upon an acquaintance from his union, who takes him to the factories at the Harvester Trust and gets him a job manufacturing harvesting and mowing equipment.
With the new job at the harvester works, Jurgis's fortunes appear to improve. Importantly, it is the helpful network of his fellow laborers that helps him secure this job.
Conditions at Jurgis's new job in the harvester works are relatively good. The workshops are big and clean, and the on-site restaurant offers affordable food. Each assembly-line worker handles a highly specialized sliver of the manufacturing process: Jurgis's job is to deliver iron plates to an assembly room. Workers labor furiously, as they are paid according to their efficiency.
Jurgis's job at the harvester works is his first glimpse into a more humane labor system.
Jurgis earns $1.75 a day. He uses some of this money to pay rent to Aniele and to reclaim his winter coat from the pawnshop. The coat is a boon to Jurgis, as he often walks instead of paying high prices to take the streetcars.
With his new wages, Jurgis can demonstrate his commitment to helping the family, and he can afford basic necessities for himself, as well.
Another Lithuanian in Jurgis's shop is admired for working several jobs to support his family and learning English on the side. Jurgis, envious of the man's industriousness, is inspired and regains some optimism for the future. Yet just as Jurgis's life seems to have improved, he shows up to work and discovers that his department has been shut down.
Jurgis's sudden misfortune highlights the vagaries of the capitalist system. When things go bad, as they often do, Jurgis is left with no safety net and must start his search for work all over again.