Updated, 5/11: There might be some much-needed hope on the way for nail salon workers. Spurred to action by the New York Times investigation, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has reportedly set up an emergency task force to investigate salons around the state. They'll also start enforcing new rules, like publicly posting information about workers' rights in multiple languages. Workers will now have to wear gloves and masks on the job as well.
Updated, 5/8: There's even more scary news about nail salons. Part two of theNew York Times' investigation found out that your cool-looking nail art might be making your manicurist sick. Chemicals in polishes, glues, and other products workers use every day have been linked to a host of health problems, including asthma, birth defects, and miscarriages. But research is limited, and industry groups have reportedly blocked attempts to regulate the products. "It's a beautiful industry, it makes people feel better," a former nail salon owner told the newspaper. "But if a lot of people knew the truth behind it, it wouldn't happen. They wouldn't go."
Original story, 5/7: If your $10 manicure seems to good to be true...it probably is. That low price might end up hurting workers, who often face harsh working conditions and very little pay, according to a major investigation by the New York Times.
Reporter Sarah Maslin Nir found that many nail salon workers in the New York area are crammed in cockroach-infested apartments in Flushing, Queens, and board vans every morning to head to salons in several different states. They work up to 12 hours a day and make very little money, sometimes no money at all if they're in an introductory "training" period, and many have to fork over a $100 to $200 fee to pay for that training.
Only 25 out of more than 100 workers interviewed said they made minimum wage. And even though many are considered "tipped workers" who can make lower than minimum wage, many of them get their tips taken away for minor infractions like spilling nail polish.
Nail salons are more prevalent in parts of the city than Starbucks, but there are very few regulators looking out for workers. Many of the workers are illegal immigrants who speak very little English, putting them at a disadvantage if they want to fight for fair treatment.
The cost of a typical manicure in New York is nearly half of the national average, so this issue might be worse here. But it's still important to think about why your mani-pedi costs what it does—and if your salon is doing right by its workers.
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