5 Ways Nail Salon Workers are Winning: Victory in New York State Legislature

As the New York State legislative session extends indefinitely, nail salon workers and advocates are celebrating perhaps the biggest victory for low-wage workers this legislative session. With nail salon workers, advocates, and allies in the media and general public raising injustices for nail salon workers for years; 2015 has seen a tremendous rise in public consciousness and the introduction and soon-to-be-implementation of critical new regulations and legislation in New York State.

On Friday, June 19, 2015--two days after the scheduled end of the New York Legislative session--the New York State Assembly unanimously passed historic legislation to create easier access to licenses for an estimated 40,000 nail salon workers throughout New York State. The bill also authorized New York's Department of State to fine and shut down salons that break the law by refusing to secure the proper licenses to operate.

The legislation was introduced at the request of Governor Andrew Cuomo, just weeks after a series of sweeping emergency regulations were implemented to address the exploitation of nail salon workers. Between new regulations and legislation, nail salon workers are arguably the winners of the 2015 New York State Legislative session. Here's how your nail salons will change as a result of these new laws:

  1. The Nail Salon Bill of Rights is now required to be visibly posted in all New York State nail salons;
  2. Nail salons will be regulated via a Nail Salon Industry Task Force, to recover unpaid wages and ensure that nail salons are following the law;
  3. Health and safety regulations for both workers and consumers will be implemented, including a newly introduced ventilation regulation to ensure that toxic air is circulated out of nail salons;
  4. Unlicensed nail salons that violate the law can now be shut down by the Department of State;
  5. Accessible licenses will be made available for all nail salon workers, creating a trainee program for unlicensed nail salon workers, clarifying the ability of undocumented workers to receive a license, and increasing language accessibility for the licensing exam.

While nail salon workers and advocates are applauding this significant victory, transforming an industry doesn't happen overnight or with the stroke of a pen. While some businesses may do the right thing and go above and beyond the standard by providing a living wage and health benefits for workers, installing a top-notch ventilation system, and even eliminating toxic products from their salons; the process of ensuring that businesses understand the law--and that workers stand up against bad actors--is ongoing, and in many ways, just beginning.

Today, we celebrate this historic victory for nail salon workers, confident that we are one step closer to creating healthy, just salons in New York State and all across the country. But tomorrow, and the next day, and for years to come, we will continue working to transform the industry--so that nail salon workers can go home at the end of the day knowing that their rights, and their work is respected.