You are reading

Advocates Call for State Legislature to Pass González-Rojas’ Bill to Decriminalize Unlicensed Massage Parlors

Assembly Member Jessica González-Rojas has introduced a bill to decriminalize unlicensed massage parlors (Assembly Member Jessica González-Rojas via Twitter)

March 1, 2022 By Allie Griffin

A coalition of advocates, legal aid organizations and civil rights groups are calling on state lawmakers to pass a Queens legislator’s bill to decriminalize unlicensed massage parlors.

Assembly Member Jessica González-Rojas, community advocates and local massage workers came together at the Flushing Worker’s Center in Flushing Friday to bring attention to her legislation that would remove criminal penalties for massage workers who practice without a license.

González-Rojas was also joined by the Red Canary Song, a grassroots collective of Asian and migrant sex workers and allies based in Flushing.

According to the collective, massage work is one of the only licensed professions in the state in which criminal law is routinely used against unlicensed practitioners — who are largely Asian American women.

Gonzáles-Rojas’ bill aims to end police raids and alleged harassment by police officers against massage businesses. It would also prevent law enforcement officials from seizing massage workers’ property, including cash.

“For too long, the criminal legal system in New York has targeted massage workers, disproportionately those who identify as Asian women, without restraint or accountability,” she said in a statement. “I introduced A8281, the Massage License Decriminalization Act, to end the state’s ongoing punishment of these working-class, immigrant New Yorkers.”

A report — authored by the Red Canary Song, other advocacy groups and Brown University — found that law enforcement often targets massage workers under the guise of combatting sex trafficking. In actuality, the efforts entrench Asian massage workers into the criminal system, according to the report.

“For far too long, New York state has trapped workers practicing massage without a license in brutal misdemeanor and felony charges, cycles of criminalization and systemic poverty,” said Jared Trujillo, policy counsel at the New York Civil Liberties Union.

“Massage is one of the only unlicensed professions where its workers and associates are frequently subject to arrest and police violence, and over 90 percent of those arrested are Asian women and non-binary people,” Trujilo said.

A Korean massage worker who has been in business for two decades in Flushing said she now has panic attacks after her place of work was raided and she was arrested.

“We are afraid of raids, first and foremost. It’s so excruciating and frightening,” said the worker who gave only her first name, Charlotte. “I suffer from horrible panic attacks when I think [the police] are coming.”

Many Asian American massage workers have difficulty obtaining a massage license due to financial, educational and linguistic barriers, advocates said. They argue that the criminalization of unlicensed massage workers — as well as sex work — is criminalizing poverty.

“Decriminalizing sex work, including massage work, is an evidence-based solution that will allow marginalized communities to participate in the economy and survive in New York,” González-Rojas said. “It is time to put an end to criminalizing survival and for Albany to pass this bill.”

The legislation has support from fellow state legislators. Queens Assembly Members Ron Kim and Zohran Mamdani are among the nine co-sponsors. Queens Sen. Jessica Ramos has sponsored the bill in the state senate.

email the author: [email protected]
No comments yet

Leave a Comment
Reply to this Comment

All comments are subject to moderation before being posted.


The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Recent News

Police officer injured during traffic stop in South Ozone Park after driver speeds off: NYPD

Police from the 106th Precinct in Ozone Park are actively searching for the driver of a sports car responsible for injuring an officer during a traffic stop on Sunday evening.

The driver of a black Corvette was traveling westbound on Rockaway Boulevard when officers pulled him for speeding just after 9 p.m. near the intersection of Centerville Street and 109th Avenue in South Ozone Park. As one of the officers approached the vehicle, the driver stepped on the accelerator running over the cop’s foot as the Corvette sped away from the scene, police said.

Maspeth man faces life in prison for 2020 fatal stabbing in Dutch Kills: DA

A Maspeth man who was caught by transit cops vaping inside a Brooklyn subway station in January is facing as much as 75 years to life in prison for stabbing a Dutch Kills man to death four years ago.

Luis Hernandez, 36, of 56th Street, was arraigned Tuesday in Queens Supreme Court on a seven-count indictment charging him with murder, gang assault and other crimes in the fatal stabbing of a 21-year-old man and the attempted murder of two others in Astoria in 2020.