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The Bill That Could Finally Give Unlicensed Nail Salon Workers Job Security

Driely S.

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New York State is getting ready to hold its last legislative sessions before the seasonal recess (because representatives need summer vacation, too) and on the agenda are emergency reform bills for the nail salon industry, the illicit details of which were exposed in a New York Times series last month. And while some measures like a workers' bill of rights and consumer education cards are already being implemented, with volunteers out in the streets hoping to empower nail technicians, lawmakers want to take it one step further.

In an effort to not inadvertently punish unlicensed salon employees, combined bills A. 7630A / S. 05966 would help to create formalized training and licensing procedures for those already working in nail salons. "Nail salon owners use licensing to control workers, wielding them as weapon to steal wages and force long working hours without proper pay," Luna Ranjit, co-founder of the New York Healthy Nail Salons Coalition, said in a press release. "The trainee program will enable unlicensed nail salon workers to come out of the shadows by empowering them to carry their own licenses, and protect them from exploitation by abusive owners."

With this law passed, unlicensed salon workers will be designated as "trainees" and can complete an apprenticeship to work their way up to licensing while still being paid a fair wage (certain salons have previously—and illegally—required employees to pay for their own training before paying them sub-minimum wage salaries). This training will include learning safety measures on how to prevent infections, and gives the state the power to shut down salons who aren't in compliance.

"Nail salons will ultimately be safer, healthier places for consumers and workers as a result of this legislation; and will increase consumer confidence in the industry," said Charlene Obernauer, another co-founder of the HNSC. "The Governor and the general public understand the urgency of improving nail salons in New York State; it is time for the legislature to act boldly and work to improve this industry."

Meanwhile, consumers unsure of where to go can head to these salons for an ethical summer pedicure.