In the months since regulations were announced and days since legislation went into effect, NY Healthy Nail Salons Coalition talked with hundreds of workers who say long hours, low wages, and exploitative conditions remain:
“The place I worked at in Westchester was terrible. The owner would yell at us, slap our hands to work faster. I worked 11 hours a day with no lunch break, we would have to hide to eat our lunch for five minutes, and then were forced to sign false documents about our hours, breaks, and pay.” – “Mariela” from Woodside
“My friends complain about developing allergies. Proper ventilation is very important to have a healthy working environment in nail salons. I am lucky to have a separate kitchen in my salon where I can eat. Most nail salon workers are not as lucky. They do not get to eat on time and are exposed to chemicals while eating.” – Siru from Jackson Heights
“They make us sign papers in order to get paid but they hide most of the paper and only show us the part we have to sign. They told us if an inspector comes, we should tell them that we get a lunch break.” – “Lidia” from Staten Island who has worked tens hours a day, five days a week for the last five years.
By filing a lawsuit against the state and hiring an anti-worker law firm to represent them in stopping the nail salon wage bond meant to protect workers, the Nail Salon owner associations have laid bare their practice of putting profit over people.
According to the Governor’s office, 98 percent of the 694 wage bond applications that were processed were approved.
It is the responsibility of elected officials to play a fair and balanced role, and allegations of pay-to-play lobbying on behalf of the nail salon associations by Queens Assemblymember Ron Kim detailed in the Times, are disappointing. These workers—the majority Latina and Asian immigrants in Queens—stand to benefit most from this legislation.
Anti-worker moves have provided space for organizations like the Manhattan Institute and Reason Foundation to further their own ideological agenda. It’s a shame to see New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan repeat the Reason storyline in calling on Times editors to re-examine the Unvarnished series by Sarah Maslin Nir because translation was insufficient, when multiple other studies and lawsuits have revealed the toxic environment and exploitative practices that exist in the industry.
If we follow the money, we find that instead of spending it on becoming “good actors,” paying the wage bond, and paying workers the minimum that the law requires, the anti-worker owners associations would rather spend their money to pay lawyers and lobbyists to fight new regulations and minimal requirement. That is indefensible. We continue to support this wage bond that holds nail salon owners accountable and provides a reasonable path for workers to collect what they are due.
We are hopeful that continued attention on nail salon workers can open the door for even greater worker protections across many other industries. People need to know nail salon workers are not passive victims. One woman who’s been working in salons for over thirteen years recently shared about how she witnessed a lot of abuse working in agriculture when she first came to the US and that experience made her strong and willing to stand up for herself in her salon.
Let’s center again on workers and support them in organizing for dignity, health and justice!
-NY Healthy Nail Salons Coalition