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Nail Salon Owners Protested Against Government Reforms at City Hall

Driely S.

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In the four and a half months since the New York Times exposed the questionable practices and horrific conditions of the nail salon industry, the government has taken steps to rectify the situation for salon workers, from an immediate investigation by an emergency multiagency task force to a law increasing punishment to a misdemeanor for running an unlicensed nail salon. Such changes are intended to improve the working conditions of nail salon employees, but many salon owners instead see it as an undue burden — and they're fed up.

Hundreds of demonstrators protested the government crackdowns outside City Hall on Monday, Gothamist reported, focusing on the wage bond requirement. Governor Cuomo passed legislation requiring nail salons to obtain wage bonds to protect workers against wage theft, one of the issues uncovered in the original piece. Owners claim the new law is too expensive to abide by and argue that similar industries not featured in a Times exposé don't have to follow such measures.

"A lot of businesses will close, and we will lose a lot of jobs," city councilman Peter Koo told the gathered crowd. Supporters of nail salons pre-reform believe Cuomo misunderstood and overreacted to the newspaper's findings. The Times claimed that employees-in-training are unpaid; but as salon owner Kuo explained to Gothamist, these employees are like students, and they should not earn wages for learning.

City councilman David Greenfield also addressed the protestors, identifying with the salon owners' effort to live the American dream of running their own business only to be unfairly deterred by the government. "The reality is that the overwhelming majority of folks who work in your industry are doing the right thing, and are following the rules, and are paying fair wages," he said.

On the other side of the fence (literally) was the the New York Healthy Nail Salons Coalition, holding a counter-protest that supported the government's measures. In response to the complaints of expense for obtaining a wage bond, the organization calculated that their cost comes to three dollars per day, and a salon that is unwilling to cooperate does not care for the wellbeing of its employees.

While the legislation catches up with the accusations and the industry undergoes reform to better protect all involved parties, you can visit one of the city's ethical nail salons for a guilt-free gel mani.