Mayor Bill de Blasio is the latest to take initiative to help change the sweatshop-like working conditions manicurists in New York City endure. According to The New York Times, wage violations and licensing issues are generally under the jurisdiction of the state, but de Blasio is looking to do his part for the cause. Earlier this week, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the state would be taking action, investigating salons and creating new rules to protect workers from the health risks associated with being around nail products day in and day out. He also mentioned that salons will be held accountable for underpaying employees and will be shut down if they do not supply back wages.
As there is only so much the city can do, de Blasio’s initiative seems to mostly be centered around spreading information to workers. The mayor has proposed a “day of action” this Thursday, where 500 city employees and volunteers will go to nail salons around the city, educating workers of their rights and reminding employers of their duties. They hope to reach out to 800-1,000 salons. Letters to salon owners reminding them that they are required to give paid sick leave will also be mailed out.
Though the city’s actions are limited, de Blasio has enlisted the Department of Consumer Affairs to investigate salons, testing to see if “nontoxic” or “3-free” nail polish products actually contain harmful chemicals. If the products are found to have such ingredients, manufacturers will be subpoenaed. The Department of Consumer Affairs has also started a petition aimed at the Personal Care Products Council to ban the offending ingredients and has written the FDA and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to do so as well.
It is heartening to see that the government is just as appalled by the flagrant abuses and exploitation of manicurists in the area. It is wonderful that both city and state offices are actually working to right these wrongs, instead of simply paying lip service to the issue. Hopefully, we can eradicate the exploitation that has become the status quo of the New York nail industry.