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This portion was originally written on Monday, November 10th.
After the New York Times blew the lid off the unfair and unsafe conditions immigrant workers face in New York City's nail salons, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed a bill that would hold owners accountable for their employees' health and wages. With the help of Queens assemblyman Ron Kim, the bill was prepared and signed into law back in June. Now, however, the paper reports that Kim opposes the measure, and skeptics think money is behind his switch.
Despite positioning himself as an advocate for nail salon workers, Kim later announced that he was softening the measures of the bill, shortly before deciding to oppose the reform all together. His issue is specifically with the wage bond requirement, a type of insurance that guarantees pay for workers who sue for wage theft. He believes this stringent requirement is unfounded, especially when it targets just one industry. He claims he originally thought the bill applied to all "appearance enhancement" businesses. "I genuinely did not think they were applying it to only nail salons," he stated in an interview.
His fellow state officials aren't convinced. "I am confused that he is confused," claims chief counsel for the governor Alphonso B. David, who is adamant that the bill's focus on nail salons was clear from the get-go. "Anyone who suggests...otherwise has either been blind to the materials we have issued, or is actively disingenuous."
Which is what makes a look at Kim's fundraising history a bit suspect. Back in July, his campaign received $25,000 from Sangho Lee, president of the Korean American Nail Salon Association. As time went by, Kim's campaign continued to be bolstered by donations from the industry — so much so that he started giving the money back.
"I didn’t want to give any impression to anybody that I did this because they were at one point donating to my campaign," he explained, "even though I don’t think that there was anything illegal in what that was."
However, according to campaign finance records, $17,000 from nail salon owners still remains with Kim, and the community is once again in disarray. Nail salon workers have lost one of their strongest allies while the government works to determine the ethics of Kim's changes based on his possible conflict of interest. Kim's staff is currently still determining whether or not more money should be returned.
Update: After the publication Times piece, Kim reached out to reporters and news outlets in an attempt to correct this narrative. Crain's New York reports that Kim claims he had taken issue with the wage bond requirement from the outset, and his record of emails and mark-ups do, in fact, back this up. Fellow assemblymen also came to his aid, reporting that Kim was against the wage-bond requirement from the start. However, Kim did publicly support the bill without clarifying this distinction.
The Times also issued a correction in regards to the donation money received by Kim in the wake of his endorsement. As it stands now, Kim received $25,000 from salon owners, $5,000 of which he returned.