Healthy Nail Salons Campaign: From the Grassroots Up

Highlights

  • The NY Healthy Nail Salons Coalition stands in strong support of the new ventilation regulations in New York State as an essential public health measure which every responsible business should support. This measure protects all those who spend time in a nail salon, including workers, clients, and business owners. Read the full statement here: NY Nail Salon Workers Speak Out for Ventilation
  • Governor Cuomo and the Departments of State and Health pass ventilation regulation for all New York Salons. Ventilation is an essential public health measure which will protect all those who spend time in a nail salon, including workers, clients and business owners. The regulations will be put in effect in all new salons on October 3rd, and will need to be implemented in all existing salons within a 5-year time frame. (July 2016)

 

Campaign Overview

The nail salon movement lies at the intersection of the environment, work safety, health, immigration, gender, race, class, ethnicity, and immigration status. It is a flashpoint for many of the most pressing issues of our times.

Adhikaar and NYCOSH had been conducting research and health and safety trainings for nail salon workers for more than a decade. In 2014, Adhikaar and NYCOSH developed a partnership to create a stronger, unified voice for healthier nail salons in New York. Through organizing, research, policy advocacy, and consumer engagement, we seek to influence diverse stakeholders and foster change. Until April 2015, Adhikaar and NYCOSH were the only groups actively working on this issue in New York City.

Our years of public education, organizing and advocacy are paying off. Most recently, in May 2015, our work led to a series of front-page New York Times articles about nail salon conditions, which garnered immediate and extraordinary public attention. This has already led to new “emergency” state-level regulations and legislation protecting nail salon workers, and investigations at the municipal level.

Our campaign has also importantly already engaged and built leadership in the nail salon worker community, and brought positive changes. Through their involvement in the project, nail salon workers have taken legal action, won back stolen wages, and testified in public forums and met with elected officials in Washington, DC. We have seen a growing awareness of the need to create healthy and safe nail salons.

Campaign Highlights To Date
  • Launch the New York Healthy Nail Salons Coalition (Summer, 2014)
  • Release of the report, How Safe is Your Salon, with Public Advocate Letitia James, calling for an increase in the number of nail salon inspectors, among other changes in nail salons; the report garnered significant media and public attention (September, 2014)
  • Launch of the New York Healthy Nail Salons Facebook page to engage diverse stakeholders (September 2014)
  • Launch of the “Healthy Salons For All,” an informational poster in English, Nepali, Chinese, Korean, and Spanish, for workers and customers, designed by Adhikaar in partnership with the Center for Urban Pedagogy (May 2015)
  • Advocacy for healthy nail salon legislation at the New York City Council (Summer 2014 – Spring 2015)
  • Partnership with the Public Advocate leads to an increase in the number of nail salon inspectors and there are more inspections of New York nail salons in the first four months of this year than in the entire previous year (January-April 2015)
  • The New York Times runs “The Price of Nice Nails,” an investigative report on nail salon conditions; the coverage and conditions in nail salons garner widespread attention (May 2015)
  • The New York Times editorial board recognizes the work of the grassroots labor organizations and the New York Healthy Nail Salons Coalition in an editorial, “Justice for Nail Salon Workers,” (May 2015)
  • Governor Cuomo announces emergency regulations and legislation to improve nail salons in New York State (May 2015)
  • NYS nail salon worker licensing exam is translated into Nepali, Tibetan and Vietnamese (May 2015)
  • Behind the Polish, a report on participatory action research involving nearly 200 Nepali and Tibetan nail salon workers is published (May 20, 2015)
  • The Coalition works with Governor Cuomo release the Nail Salon Workers’ Bill of Rights, which puts rights of undocumented workers at the forefront (May 2015)
  • NYS Legislature unanimously passes historic legislation (A.7630A /S.05966) to establish a training and licensing program, establish a wage bond to protect workers against wage theft, and authorize New York’s Department of State to shut down salons that break the law (June 2015)
The Next Chapter: Goals and Strategies

The Campaign will continue to work simultaneously on several fronts. Over the next five years, we aim to build on our accomplishments and win substantial and lasting changes:

  • Organize Workers. Adhikaar has been organizing Nepali and Tibetan nail salon workers. Workers’ centers, led by Adhikaar, will come together to create a robust, multi-ethnic platform—The Nail Salon Workers’ Organizing Project—to empower nail salon workers, who are predominantly immigrant women of color. We will work closely with Workers’ United (SEIU) for the rights of nail salon workers.
  • Engage Consumers in Support of Nail Salon Worker Organizing. As we move forward, we will build engagement opportunities for consumers, which will be directly informed by the workers themselves. We draw upon the examples of farm workers’ and restaurant workers’ movement to build consumer engagement strategies. We firmly believe that most women and men who walk into salons for personal care would also care about those who work there and will take action to support them if those actions are clear and simple to carry out.
  • Promote Improved Working Conditions Through Monitoring and Enforcement. This includes developing a Code of Conduct that encompasses fair working conditions, transparency, decent wages, and a grievance process, and open access to salons by monitoring groups ensure adherence to the Code.
  • Foster Policy Change. The Nail Salon Workers’ Bill of Rights and the trainee program for unlicensed workers are important first steps towards justice for nail salon workers. Moving forward, we seek to ensure that nail salons operate on fair and just principles, and will push legislation at both State and City levels to accomplish these goals.

The nail salon workers of New York City have traditionally been treated shamefully. These women – committed, courageous immigrants – are finding a voice within the Healthy Nail Salon Campaign, and using this voice to improve their own lives as well as set an example for others across the nation. Adhikaar is proud to work with them side-by-side, and together transform their industry and their lives to be healthier and safer. We firmly believe that such changes will affect not only them and their communities, but their customers, our cities and economies for the better. We are developing a worker-led model in New York City that is already inspiring action in other parts of the country.