Many Sandy Victims Who Can’t Get To Work Can’t Get Paid

Last night on NBC’s Rock Center, Alec Baldwin shared his horrifying Hurricane Sandy experience: He left his Lower Manhattan home to stay to a hotel with his 20-something wife because he didn’t want to take his dogs up and down the stairs, but then he returned to his building to volunteer “to stand by” for a few hours. The horror! The heroism! Meanwhile many areas of New York are in ruins, and non-millionaire workers are suffering financially, too. What do you do if you earn $10 an hour working at a coffee shop five miles away from home, but you can’t get to work? For many workers, it means you just don’t get paid this week.

Salaried workers have much more protection when it comes to getting paid even if a storm interrupts their workplace’s normal functioning. But as I wrote yesterday, employers have a lot more discretion with hourly workers: Essentially, if those workers don’t work, for just about any reason, they don’t get paid.

The Huffington Post reports today on how these workers are being hurt by the storm. Reporters talked to one couple who work at the same Brooklyn gift shop. So far, they’ve each lost two full days of work, which adds up to about $400. Yesterday they tried to make it in to work, but their commute now requires four city buses and takes an unpredictable amount of time.

About 60% of all working people in the US are paid hourly. Hourly workers are usually lower paid, which means they’re likelier to feel the loss of a week’s pay more immediately than a worker with a better savings cushion.

One woman who works for a telemarketer in Brooklyn had missed out on her $8 an hour pay, plus commissions, for three days in a row. “I don’t have cab fare, and I barely can pay my little rent,” she told the Huffington Post. Maybe Alec Baldwin can help her out.

Photo: Yuri Arcurs /

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