Nail Salon Advocates and Workers Celebrate Historic Win In New York Legislature


Friday, June 19, 2015


Mónica Novoa, NYCOSH



Nail Salon Advocates and Workers Celebrate Historic Win In New York Legislature

Legislation Ensures Workers Will Receive Training and Protection

and Authorizes Shut Down of Rogue Businesses 


New York, NY—The New York Legislature—at the request of Governor Cuomo, who has piloted new regulations to curb worker exploitation and abuse within the nail salon industry—has passed historic legislation to protect nail salon workers on its final day in session. New York Healthy Nail Salons Coalition members celebrated the unanimous passage of legislation as well as an important narrative shift that other industries plagued with systemic injustice will benefit from: workers organizing to improve their health and economic well-being can be supported by consumers who understand worker health as public health. Bills A. 7630A / S. 05966, create an opportunity for steady and fair employment for people working in an estimated 3,000 nail salons in the State through establishing a training and licensing program. In addition, the bill authorizes New York’s Department of State to shut down salons that break the law.

The New York Healthy Nail Salons Coalition formed in 2014 to ensure that all nail salon workers are justly compensated and able to work in safe and healthy environments. Members of the New York Healthy Nail Salons Coalition include: Adhikaar, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, National Employment Law Project, New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, Planned Parenthood of New York City, and Workers’ United New York/New Jersey Joint Board (SEIU).

Tens of thousands of nail salon workers—mostly Latina and Asian immigrant women—throughout New York are exposed to dangerous health hazards on the job and earn as little as $35 per day; cases of wage theft are all too common. A. 7630A / S. 05966 creates a path to full licensure for currently unlicensed workers by creating a “trainee” designation for currently unlicensed workers, and the opportunity for trainees who complete one year of apprenticeship training to become fully licensed. The legislation ensures that trainees have access to proper training, including on safety and preventing infection; and allows the state to shut down salons that repeatedly flout the law and evade health and safety inspections by operating without a license.

The Healthy Nail Salons Coalition and worker-members praised the bill’s support for unlicensed—and often undocumented—nail salon workers.

“Nail salon owners have used licensing to control workers, wielding them as a weapon to steal wages and force long working hours without proper pay. The trainee program will enable unlicensed nail salon workers to come out of the shadows by empowering them to carry their own licenses, and protect them from exploitation by abusive owners,” said Luna Ranjit, Executive Director of Adhikaar and co-founder of the New York Healthy Nail Salons Coalition.

“Legal protections are critical for workers like me whose health and ability to provide for our families are threatened every day by low wages and poor conditions,” said Marta, a nail salon worker from Queens who works on Long Island, who asked her last name not to be included for fear of retaliation. “I hope this encourages other licensed, unlicensed, documented, and undocumented workers alike to come together to demand fairness and dignity in the workplace.”

Members of the New York Healthy Nail Salons Coalition praised the legislation for creating meaningful standards in nail salons for workers and consumers alike.

“The Legislature and the Governor have taken a huge step forward in creating healthier nail salons for workers and consumers. Nail salons will ultimately be safer, healthier places for consumers and workers as a result of this legislation,” said Charlene Obernauer, co-founder of the New York Healthy Nail Salons Coalition and Executive Director of NYCOSH.

“This legislation is a crucial step toward fair working conditions and meaningful health and safety protections in nail salons. We thank the legislature for acting to protect vulnerable workers and public health,” said Rachel Spector, staff attorney at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest.

“Planned Parenthood of New York City applauds New York legislators for passing this legislation, which will make nail salons safer and healthier for workers and customers,” said Joan Malin, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of New York City. “All New Yorkers deserve to be treated fairly and work without risking their health or the health of their family, and this legislation is an essential step toward achieving this.”

“This critical legislation removes barriers to obtaining licenses for thousands of nail salon workers in New York, many of whom are Asian immigrant women. This bill also helps protect workers who experience wage theft and ensure fair working conditions.  We commend New York legislators for seizing the opportunity to make nail salons safer for both workers and consumers by passing A. 7630A / S. 05966. ” said Miriam Yeung, Executive Director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum.

“This legislation is a meaningful step in protecting marginalized immigrant workers’ rights, safety and dignity in the nail salon industry. We thank the New York State legislature for passing this bill, and look forward to working with others in ensuring that we have long-term, multi-pronged, comprehensive strategies that both protect vulnerable, immigrant workers and support struggling, immigrant small-business owners,” said Grace Shim, Executive Director of the MinKwon Center for Community Action.

“This bill takes a critical step in improving protections for thousands of nail salon workers in New York and sets an important example for legislatures throughout the country,” said Julie Kelly, Manager / International Vice President of Workers’ United NY/NJ Regional Joint Board. “Now, it’s time to ensure that these workers earn a living wage, have affordable healthcare and the safe and healthy environment that all workers deserve.”

Governor Cuomo’s Multi-Agency Task Force and regulations, combined with this piece of legislation, is another step towards transforming the nail salon industry in New York State.