May 27, 2022 By Alexandra Adelina Nita
The workers were joined by State Senator Jessica Ramos—who has introduced the bill in the state senate—and Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas, a co-sponsor of the assembly version of the bill.
The rally occurred in the wake of an April report from the ILR Worker Institute at Cornell University that calls attention to the dangerous working conditions, low wages and discrimination nail salon workers—the majority of whom are AAPI women or Latina—often face. Workers had also held previous rallies and spoken with the media.
The workers shared their own experiences as they stood at a podium in front of sign-bearing supporters.
“Nail salon workers need this legislation immediately and it needs to pass without delay,” said Menuka Simkhada, a six-year member of the industry. “We won a higher minimum wage but we’re still not all getting paid well. My tips are being kept from me, I don’t get commission and I can’t work more than 25 hours in a week despite being full time.”
If passed, the bill would create two regulatory bodies to oversee the nail salon industry: a nail salon minimum standards council and an independent minimum pricing committee.
The minimum standards council would be composed of workers, small business owners and elected officials—and would have the power to investigate nail salons for compliance with existing laws.
The council would make sure that the hourly minimum wage—which some salons currently circumvent by misclassifying employees as independent contractors—are adhered to. Additionally, it would make sure that salons offer paid sick leave and meal breaks—and are in compliance with ventilation standards that must be adhered to by October 2022.
The independent minimum pricing committee would have a year to conduct research for a report that would be presented to its commissioner. The report would recommend nail salon pricing models that would serve both the needs of workers and business owners.
Both the Queens legislators view the bill as a necessity.
“The nail salon industry has experienced a drastic race to the bottom, where the highly skilled labor of nail salon workers has been undercut by declining industry standards,” Ramos said. “By bringing salon owners, nail salon workers, and policy makers together, the Nail Salon Minimum Standards Council allows all the necessary stakeholders to co-create solutions that work for the entire sector.”
González-Rojas further emphasized the position of workers. “Nail salon workers deserve an industry that pays them and treats them well,” she tweeted.
Rochester Assemblymember Harry Bronson was also in attendance to support the bill. “As Chair of Economic Development, when I see an industry where the norm is cutting corners on labor and safety standards, I know we need a transformative change – and that is why Senator Jessica Ramos and I have proposed the Nail Salon Minimum Standards Council Act,” he said.
The bill is currently in the Senate and Assembly labor committees.