Reporter Sarah Maslin Nir wanted to draw attention to what she saw as widespread exploitation of New York City nail salon workers—and boy, did she succeed. Nir's two-part series, published in The New York Times in May, set social media alight and spurred the enactment of "emergency protections" by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, including the creation of a Nail Salon Enforcement Task Force.
By mid-July, state inspectors had visited 755 salons and issued 1,799 violations. The governor called these efforts a "step forward to protect the dignity and rights" of employees. But staff and owners beg to differ. In August, salons across the city closed their doors for several days to protest the new measures. Signs posted on some shuttered businesses said the closure was due to "unfair regulations."
"The government doesn't really help any nail art workers" but rather "destroys their occupations" and "use[s] the law as a method to collect money from the salons from tickets," the signs read, directing observers to NailGlobal.com. The anonymously run site adds that the industry needs time, "guidance and support" to get into compliance, "not harsh fines" and raids.
The new rules required owners to purchase a wage bond by October 1 or face shutdown. They also force manicurists to wear gloves and goggles during certain tasks, mandate the posting of worker rights in six languages, and require overtime pay. The response from employees has been mixed, with some seeing hours cut to avoid triggering overtime. "I know the article tried to help us," an Upper East Side salon employee told the Times. "But for some employees it created a worse situation."