Superstorm Sandy’s Economic Impact on Hourly Workers

This may have been one of my favorite tweets of the weekend. The thing about sending something back to the dishwasher is such a great idea.

As you can imagine, every news outlet, especially The New York Times, has been covering the economic impact of Superstorm Sandy from many angles. Here’s a story about how the hurricane has affected weddings. Here’s a story about how the majority of FEMA employees don’t receive health benefits. And here’s a story about how some elite marathon runners, who depend on prize money to make a living, were affected after the city cancelled Sunday’s race.

But the most economically impacted by the storm are the people who barely scrape a living on a day-to-day basis: Hourly workers.

Unlike salaried employees, who still get paid if their workplaces are closed (or were asked to use vacation days in the interim), hourly workers lost a good deal of income if the storm prevented them from going to work. This is why Anthony Bourdain’s tweet about eating in lower Manhattan and tipping service workers well after businesses were able to reopen after having their power shut off for several days was such a good idea. I’m having dinner with friends later this week, and when they asked where I wanted to meet, I said, “Anywhere downtown.”

Yes, sending extra money to the dishwasher is an act of generosity that not everyone can afford (Bourdain can afford $20, and I’m more likely to have a $10 bill in my budget), and it is, perhaps unfortunately, generosity that has allowed some hourly workers to push through the storm (“One nanny in the bus line said she would be paid her regular wages, while another said she would not be compensated for hours missed.”).

In addition, hourly workers, many whom are low-income immigrants, often lack access to critical information and resources that could help them, which is why really great organizations like the Chinatown-based CAAAV are so vital after disasters:

For example, workers may not be aware that they may qualify for disaster unemployment relief, which covers a broad section of workers, including self-employed taxi drivers and street vendors, who are eligible for benefits in cases that include, “transportation to work is not available because of the disaster.”

So going to dinner and showing our appreciation for the dishwasher? It’s one of the smallest acts of kindness we can do for hourly workers affected by the storm right now.



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