Emergency Makeover Ordered for Salon Industry; After New York Times investigates, de Blasio, Cuomo call for overhaul

Emergency Makeover Ordered for Salon Industry; After New York Times investigates, de Blasio, Cuomo call for overhaul

PHOTO:  After investigations revealed labor abuses and potential health risks at city and state nail salons, Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo announced in recent days aggressive measures to support salon workers and educate businesses and consumers. Forum Photo by Eugénie Bisulco


In response to a recent series in The New York Times exposing rampant exploitation of nail salon workers, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio are cracking down on potential abuses at city and state salons, announcing in recent days immediate actions to evaluate and remedy the situation.

The Times investigation showed that nail salon workers are exposed to harmful chemicals and generally make less than minimum wage.  In addition, a number of studies show that manicurists, hairdressers, and other cosmetologists are more likely to have certain cancers, Hodgkin’s disease, and problems with fetal and infant health.  Appropriate licenses are not always maintained by salons, and individual workers often pay employers a fee to learn the trade rather than pay heftier fees to be trained properly – which also takes more time.  On top of these concerns, nail salons have been identified as “hotspots” for sex trafficking.

The State of New York licenses salons, and, while New York City has limited jurisdiction over labor and wage laws, it is executing a number of actions within its jurisdiction to address these allegations.  The de Blasio administration is collaborating with City officials who had previously worked on the issue.  The new legislation package will be introduced in the Assembly and Senate simultaneously.  The State Department will have for the first time the power to close down unlicensed salons and increase violations fines.  Governor Cuomo’s proposal, announced Monday, also creates a trainee class of workers, enabling employees to work toward their legal and upfront license.

In January, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. and Council member Rafael Espinal, chair of the City Council’s Committee on Consumer Affairs, announced legislation on a new letter grading system for nail salons, beauty parlors, and other cosmetology businesses throughout the five boroughs.  The proposed system would assess these types of establishments, utilizing expanded health and safety training, with a letter grade – as does the existing system that evaluates New York City restaurants.

This week, de Blasio announced, there will be a “Day of Action” on May 21 involving outreach by some 500 volunteers and city representatives throughout the five boroughs to distribute information about workers’ rights, employer obligations, and consumer tips.  Additionally, up to 1000 salons will be visited to inform owners about their responsibilities and the resources available to remedy existing issues.  Letters are being sent to federal regulatory agencies calling for bans on the use of formaldehyde and other chemicals and urging immediate action to protect salon workers.  And nearly 3,000 nail salons will be receiving letter regarding the Paid Sick Leave Law in New York.

“Every New Yorker must be protected from predatory workplace practices that threaten their health and exploit their labor,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “We will use all available powers to shield nail salon workers from deplorable conditions, empower them with awareness of their rights, and offer every other support we can to ensure the safety and dignity of our hardworking fellow New Yorkers.”

By Eugénie Bisulco eugenie@theforumnewsgroup.com


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>