Getting a manicure is often about getting clean and pretty nails, but in New York, manicure services have become a political issue with Governor Andrew Cuomo. The governor has ordered a crackdown of nail salons following allegations that the industry subjects workers to hazardous working conditions and unfair labor practices.

Last week, The New York Times exposed of the abusive treatment that nail salon workers are being subjected to in exchange for little pay.

The workers are frequently forced to work without pay during apprenticeship periods, and when they do start to get paid, they receive less than the minimum wage.

Manicurists even pay up to $200 so they can work in a nail salon, and while there are tips, these are sometimes skimmed or withheld from the workers as well.

The workers, nearly 60 percent of whom are immigrants with about 20 percent illegal, are also exposed to potentially toxic chemicals that are being attributed to many of these workers suffering from salon-related illnesses such as horrible coughs.

Interestingly, these workers are aware of what they are getting into with Asian-language ads listing salon job wages in Manhattan to be as low as $10 per day.

Prompted by this exposé, Cuomo came up with a multi-agency emergency task force that would address the problem, saying that this would work immediately to do something about the illegal practices and hazardous working conditions in the nail salon industry.

The governor likewise said that he would introduce new health and safety regulations, recover wages that were unpaid, revoke the licenses of offending nail salon owners and shut down unlicensed businesses.

The workers will also observe safety measures such as the use of gloves and facial masks as well as fans to reduce their exposure to harmful fumes that are found in nail products and are associated with fetal defects and leukemia.

Salons will also be required to post signs written in multiple languages informing about the rights of the workers.                              

"New York State has a long history of confronting wage theft and unfair labor practices head on, and today, with the formation of this new Enforcement Task Force, we are aggressively following in that tradition," Cuomo's said. "We will not stand idly by as workers are deprived of their hard-earned wages and robbed of their most basic rights."

Cuomo said that the move would help ensure that nobody is illegally victimized by their employer regardless of the language they speak and the status of their citizenship.

Photo: David Shankbone | Flickr 

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