BY LUIS GRONDA
Several representatives of the nail salon industry came together Monday for the first time publicly since a New York Times investigative series shined light on the deplorable conditions for salon workers in New York.
The workers, along with Assemblyman Ron Kim (D- Flushing) and Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) gathered at Alpha Nails and Spa in Flushing to support reforms to the industry announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, following the Times story earlier this month.
The articles exposed the poor conditions that many salon workers endure throughout the City, including working for low wages and not having proper equipment to work at a nail salon.
Cuomo unveiled new bills that would end abusive conditions at nail salons across the State. The reforms include giving the Department of State power to immediately shut down salon storefronts that are violating state labor laws, and impose heavier fines on those businesses. It also mandates storefronts to have an adequate supply of protective equipment, including masks and gloves.
“Our point is simple: exploitation has no place in the state of New York. The rights of nail salon employees must be respected, and we are launching an aggressive crackdown on the industry to make sure that happens,” Cuomo said. “New York State is sending the message loud and clear: we will not tolerate abusive or unsafe working conditions – period.”
In Flushing, Kim and Meng said these changes must be made to address the issues running rampant in the industry.
“There are opportunities to learn and become better at what you do. Those who remain and protect the status-quo by finger pointing and picking fights will not be able to use this chance to become better businesses,” Kim said.
The solutions laid out today to fix the problems that exist at nail salons are critical to ensuring that the nail salon industry is operating above board and not violating the rights of workers,” Meng added. “Nail salons, just like all other small business, play an important role in our city’s economy, and increasing education and creating measures like ‘good business’ labels and a code of conduct, are key improvements to making sure these establishments are successful while not violating health or labor laws.”
Through an interpreter, Nancy Choi, the owner of Alpha Nails for the last four years, described work conditions at her business. She said while there are some salon stores that do not follow state-mandated rules and regulations, many, including Alpha, follow the laws and that more focus should be given to those stores as well.
Kim echoed Choi’s sentiments during the press conference.
“These businesses are frustrated, they feel targeted, they feel vilified – especially when they are doing all of the things right and following all of the regulations and don’t want to be associated with some of the bad apples in the mix,” he said.
The governor’s office has created a task force to resolve problems within the nail salon industry. A hotline was also set up for residents who are looking for more information at (888) 469-7365.
Reach Luis Gronda at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127, email@example.com, or @luisgronda.