Mayor de Blasio vows multifaceted crackdown on nail salon abuses

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NEW YORK (PIX11) – Mayor Bill de Blasio joined Governor Andrew Cuomo in condemning labor abuses at New York City nail salons, and vowed a multifaceted crackdown Wednesday.

“Every New Yorker must be protected‎ from predatory workplace practices that threaten their health and exploit their labor,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “We will use all available powers to shield nail salon workers from deplorable conditions, empower them with awareness of their rights, and offer every other support we can to ensure the safety and dignity of our hardworking fellow New Yorkers.”

The immediate steps the city will take include testing nail salon products and subpoenaing manufacturers, as well as cracking down on employment agencies to ensure that their workers are being paid at least minimum wage.

On Thursday, May 21, the city will stage a “Day of Action” during which 500 volunteers and multiple city officials will distribute workers’ rights information and outreach tips, according to the mayor.  On that day, the goal is to stop by 800-1000 nail salons to speak with owners about their responsibilities and educate them about their resources.  On Monday, the city will also send a letter to 3,000 salons informing them of their responsibilities under New York’s Paid Sick Leave Law.

Finally, officials will call on the US Food and Drug Administration to ban the so-called “Toxic Trio” of chemicals often found in nail products — Formaldehyde, Dibutyl Phthalate and Toluene.”

The city is also launching a consumer petition that can be found here.

PIX11 News found “ethical manicures” do, in fact, exist, despite a bombshell New York Times investigation that initially exposed the extent of abuse by many owners. The bad news, however, is that in our search alone, we found they are indeed few and far between.

The Times interviewed more than 150 nail salon workers and owners, in four languages, and found that a vast majority of workers are paid way below minimum wage and sometimes are not even paid at all, especially during their first few months of training.

Workers said they endure all types of humiliation, including having their tips docked as punishment, constant video monitoring by owners and even physical abuse. Employers are rarely punished for labor and other violations.

Some employees, who clip, primp and polish finger and toenails, said they were paid just $1.50 an hour — significantly less than New York’s $8.75 minimum hourly wage — during a 66-hour work week, with no overtime. On slow days they were paid nothing at all.

According to some of the workers, they were not only underpaid, but also kicked as they sat on pedicure stools and verbally abused.

The Times investigation reveals this behavior is happening across the five boroughs, Long Island and Connecticut, including in the wealthier pockets of the region.

These low wages are doled out despite the fact that the business seems to be booming, with the average price of a manicure hovering around $10.50. The number of salons in New York City alone has more than tripled over a decade and a half to nearly 2,000 in 2012, according to the report.

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