Chinese Nail Salon Owners: 'Shame on You New York Times!'

Protesters decry the Times' reporting-and the new regulations it inspired.


Nail Salon Industry Protest, September 21, 2015
Jim Epstein

About 350 members of New York's nail salon industry rallied in front of City Hall in Manhattan today to protest a recent state mandate requiring that business owners purchase wage-bond insurance before October 6 or face significant fines. The crowd was made up primarily of Chinese-American nail salon operators.

Several participants held signs denouncing a series on the nail salon industry published in The New York Times in May, which is what led to the recent regulatory crackdown. Several protesters interviewed by Reason alleged that the Times series, which was written by reporter Sarah Maslin Nir, was rife with factual inaccuracies and gross mischaracterizations.

In particular, they disputed a claim made by the Times that it's common for nail salon technicians to earn as little $10 per day.

A smaller counter protest also gathered in front of City Hall, with about 25 participants holding signs in support of the wage-bond requirement and increased regulation of the nail salon industry. It was organized by a group called the "Healthy Nail Coalition."

One nail salon worker participating in the counter protest, a Mexican-immigrant who spoke through a translator and asked to be identified only by her first name, Alma, held a sign that said (in Spanish). "Worker Dignity: They pay me $50 per day for 10 and a half hours." When questioned, she said that her base salary is actually $65, and she earns between $20 to $55 in tips on top of that.

Nail Salon Industry Protest, September 21, 2015
Jim Epstein

After the City Hall demontration disbanded, a group of about 50 protesters made the six-mile trek uptown to The New York Times' headquarters on 42nd Street. They gathered in front of the building's main entrance and chanted "Shame on you NYT!," before leaving about 10 minutes later at the request of building security.

The wage-bond requirement was created by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) through an emergency order issued last month. A wage bond is a type of insurance for workers who win a judgement against their employers but are unable to collect their winnings.

Last week, the Korean-American Nail Salon Association and the Chinese Nail Salon Association filed a lawsuit in New York State Supreme court seeking to overturn the wage-bond requirement on the grounds that it's discriminatory and "based on an irresponsible piece of reporting by The New York Times," according to the petition.

In a phone interview, the plaintiff's attorney, Michael Park, said he expects the courts will grant a preliminary injunction in the case, which would push back the October 6 deadline.

Reason TV is working on a report that will explore in detail the validity of The New York Times' reporting on the issue and look at the effect that new regulations are having on the nail salon industry.

My colleague, Elizabeth Nolan Brown, has reported on the controversy here, here, here, and here.