January 2, 2019
NYCOSH applauds the Governor’s move to eliminate the sub-minimum tipped wage in New York State. This victory is the result of years of organizing on behalf of nail salon, car wash, and restaurant workers and represents a significant step forward for the workers’ health and safety and labor movements.
The victory comes after the Governor’s 2015 Exploited Worker Task force was formed to examine exploitation in low wage industries, and after months of statewide hearings in 2018 intended to address the impact of the sub-minimum wage on low-wage workers.
Nail salon workers are primarily Latina and Asian immigrant women, who are often paid a daily rate of between $70 to $90 and depend on tips for their livelihoods. Workers are exposed to dangerous health hazards, including glues; polishes; removers; and other products, and also risk infections from contact with clients’ skin, nails, or blood. Nail polishes and other nail products commonly contain what is nicknamed the “toxic trio” of formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate, and toluene, which can have serious health ramifications when inhaled regularly without proper ventilation.
Recent legislation has improved conditions for nail salon workers, but the sub-minimum wage continued to keep this sector in poverty wages. With new actions by the Governor to address this exploitation, workers will be one step closer to fair wages. However, the fight for fair wages for restaurant and hospitality workers continues, which is necessary to truly combat exploitation in these exploitative industries.