The book Nickel and Dimed follows Barbara Ehrenreich and her experiences working multiple low paying jobs. She is constantly struggling to make ends meet and have enough money to purchase bare essentials such as housing and food. The places she worked at usually had a significant power gap between the workers and the managers, causing a perpetual sense of powerlessness.
Barb experienced the most overwhelming sense of powerlessness while working at Hearthside. This was due to the oppressive manager, Stu, who would demeaningly watch his employees to ensure they never got a moment of relaxation. This had a negative effect on all his workers mentally and physically. Since she wasn't able to sit down the end of the day was characterized by extreme fatigue, which was new to her. Also, she worked constantly fearing that Stu would force her to do a more strenuous task that would follow him catching her Idling.
During her time at Woodcrest, she was able to control her work environment the most. Her supervisor, Linda, made this possible by demonstrating that she cared about her workers, Ehrenreich even describes her as “kindly”, the opposite of how she described her other supervisors. Unlike Stu, Linda didn't watch her employees so Barbara was able to focus solely on working, rather than constantly being under the pressure associated with a manager watching you.
When Ehrenreich worked for Molly maids she had the most “say” and the ability to collaborate with her co workers. This is because the employees aren't under a manager's supervision when they are cleaning the houses. One time where she was able to have control over a situation in the workplace is when Holly hurts her ankle. Ehrenreich was determined to lighten Holly’s work to preserve her wellbeing and prevent her from further injury, so her and her other coworkers took steps to minimize the amount of strenuous tasks that Holly had to do. For example, Barb worked hard to complete her assignment quickly so she can do the ones Holly isn't able to do, while Holly does the cleaning that doesn't require standing, such as cleaning bathrooms. The fact that she was able to do this shows that she is able to control some aspects of her workplace and collaborate with her co workers to get the job done.