At a packed press conference in Flushing, Queens on Tuesday morning, Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-District 40) announced that he's co-sponsoring a state bill that aims to bring more transparency to the New York State Department of Labor's inspection process. Kim also released an industry survey of 194 nail salons showing that 54 percent of stores have laid off employees and 17 percent have closed entirely since May.
The bill, co-sponsored by Senator Jesse Hamilton (D-District 20), will require that the State Department of Labor report the race, gender, and location of the owner of every business it inspects or penalizes. Kim says the need for more transparency was highlighted by a regulatory crackdown of nail salons that began after a two-part New York Times series alleged rampant labor abuses in the industry. Kim says the state's actions were discriminatory because they targeted an industry dominated by Asians.
"The [Cuomo] administration is guilty of directing state resources to justify its knee-jerk reaction to a New York Times report," said Kim, adding that the paper's public editor, Margaret Sullivan, later found that the original story was "biased."
Kim was referring to a piece written by Sullivan that was prompted by Reason's re-reporting of the Times' coverage. The paper's "two-part investigation," Sullivan wrote last November, "went too far in generalizing about an entire industry" and "its findings, and the language used to express them, should have been dialed back—in some instances substantially."
More than a hundred nail salon owners attended Kim's press conference. Many of them held protest signs and wore T-shirts that said "Stop Discrimination Now!" The industry is planning a demonstration in Albany next month.
Kim pointed to survey data collected by industry groups as evidence of the negative impact the state's actions have had on nail salons. While there's anecdotal evidence to support that conclusion, the study itself wasn't carried out in a statistically rigorous manner. For example, no measures were taken to insure that the sample was representative of the industry, and the it doesn't include comparison figures showing the rate of business closure and layoffs prior to the regulatory crackdown.