N.Y. Gov. Cuomo On Fighting Abuse At Nail Salons: “Nobody Can Do It Faster Than The Consumer Can Do It”

cuomoIn the aftermath of a recent two-part investigative report on the conditions in the nail salon industry, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office worked with lawmakers to create a multi-agency task force aimed at fighting abuses in the workplace. At a task force event today in New York City, Cuomo and other public officials said that after working with nail salon employees to educate them on their rights and talking to business owners, the final, most powerful step is up to consumers.

Joining Cuomo at today’s Nail Salon Industry Task Force event were public advocate Letitia James, Secretary of State Cesar Perales and Assemblyman Ron Kim, who all pledged to help fight the abuse that finds many workers laboring in unsafe conditions, inhaling dust and chemicals while often not making minimum wage or earning overtime.

Cuomo stressed the point that such abuses aren’t restricted to the nail salons in New York, but anywhere that has a vulnerable workforce who don’t think they have rights — often including undocumented workers — that often exploited for the profit of others.

Those rights are now explained on a nail salon workers’ bill of rights [PDF] that the task force says will be required for owners to post where it’s visible to customers and workers alike. The bill outlines workers’ rights to minimum wage and overtime, as well as noting that they shouldn’t be paying for any kind of training or working without pay as an apprentice.

After working with nail salon workers to educate them on the new bill of rights — as well as talking to businesses about the changes — the governor says it’s now up to consumers to help combat abuse at the city’s 3,000+ salons.

Cuomo addressed the question many consumers have right now after learning about the conditions at some nail salons — what can I do? People still want to get their nails done, but don’t want to tolerate businesses that abuse their workers. To that end, Cuomo urged New Yorkers to download a five-step list of questions [PDF] that customers can bring with them to ask a nail salon owner before getting services.

The basics:

1. Are workers paid at least the minimum wage and overtime?
2. Is appropriate protective equipment (respirator mask, gloves, eye protection) provided to workers and used?
3. Is there adequate ventilation (no strong chemical odors)?
4. Is the salon business license posted in plain view?
5. Is the Nail Salon Workers’ Bill of Rights posted in plain view?

“The power of the consumer in this situation could change this situation in a matter of days,” Cuomo said, adding that with so many nail salons in the city, it makes it hard to police.

On the other hand, with salons on almost every block in the city, “consumers have a choice,” Cuomo said. “If a nail salon is abusing workers, don’t go there. Walk down the block to one of the other 2,999 nail salons.”

“Nobody can do it faster than the consumer can do it,” Cuomo added, urging consumers to boycott the “bad” businesses. “Nobody can do it faster than the market can do it.”

If customers have concerns over any potential abuse at a salon they visit, or to report an unlicensed salon, they’re urged to call the Nail Salon Industry Task Force Hotline: (888) 469-7365 or go online at www.ny.gov/nailsalonsafety.