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Continued Power Outages Mean No Work, No Pay for Many

Common Dreams staff

(photo: Mike Segar/ Reuters)

Continued power outages in the wake of Hurricane Sandy mean many businesses and shops are still closed and their employees are not working. The consequences of these days without work underscore the vast difference between the hardships faced by low-wage, hourly workers and salaried workers.

The stories of New York workers in a New York Times article on Saturday show this stark contrast. Mike Samuel, 55, a delivery man for a florist, tells the Times that he's lost five days of work -- and therefore five days of pay. "We don’t work, we don’t get no tips, we don’t get no pay," he said at food distribution center in Chelsea.

Damien Carney, on the other hand, speaking to the Times from the Clinton Hill section of Brooklyn at a playground with his children, is getting a paid vacation due to power outages at his work. "They basically said, ‘Don’t worry about it,’" Mr. Carney said of his employers.

The Times goes on to explain how this divide is cemented through labor laws:

Federal labor laws include more protections for salaried workers than hourly workers when a disaster hits. Employers must continue to pay salaries if the worksite is closed for less than a week, even though they are allowed to require employees to use vacation or paid leave for the duration of the closure. Hourly workers, on the other hand, do not have to be paid if the worksite closes. If the workplace is open but salaried workers cannot get there, their pay may be reduced.

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