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Cuomo Reads Times Nail Salon Series, Starts Writing Lame New Regulations Posthaste

Reactionary policy tends to be bad policy.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is introducing "emergency protections" for nail-salon workers, following a New York Times exposé last week on their low pay and possibly hazardous conditions. Is this an example of swift action to remedy an overlooked issue? Or reactionary politicians recognizing a good opportunity to grab power and PR points when they see it? To answer that question, let's consider who will actually benefit from the governor's nail salon decree. 

duluoz cats/Flickrduluoz cats/FlickrUnder the new rules, nail salons will be required to post notices in six languages about workers' rights—a move that probably falls in the won't help, won't hurt category. Another step will require salons to be bonded, "to ensure ... that workers can eventually be paid if salon owners are found to have underpaid the workers" and also hide their assets from legal authorities. But what are the chances an owner who both eschews wage laws and engages in fraud are going to bother getting bonded? While this move is unlikely to add meaningful protection for workers, it will, however, drive up the cost of doing business for every nail salon in the state. 

The biggest part of Cuomo's plan will send state and city inspectors into nail salons regularly, which may sound good in theory. He even promises inspectors won't inquire about workers' immigration status. Many of the women interviewed by the Times were in the country illegally, as well as working without the required state license for manicurists. Cuomo didn't say whether inspectors would be concerned with the professional licensing aspect. Regardless, putting law enforcement agents in increased contact with marginalized groups seldom works to their benefit. Week after week, I read stories about cities upping inspections of things like massage parlors and strips clubs. The stated reason is always noble: to ferret out human trafficking. But without fail these investigators wind up citing people for things like prostitution, building code violations, stripping without proper paperwork, and employing undocumented immigrants. The best laid plans of progressives and policymakers often play out very differently in the hands of government agents with quotas to meet, fees to collect, and a sense of personal purpose to fulfill. 

Lastly, Cuomo will require all nail-salon workers to wear gloves and face masks, and salon owners to ensure proper ventilation. From the original Times articles, it seems like these simple steps could go a long way to improving worker safety and health—and be much more meaningful than the suggestion that the Food and Drug Administration simply ban nail-polish ingredients that aren't harmful with the right precautions. Again, I fear that the requirements will be used (like so many occupational safety rules are) to selectively harass and intimidate certain salons out of business, rather than as a small stick to encourage safe practices. But, in theory at least, this is the requirement that make the most sense to me. 

Cuomo's office said they started drafting the new nail salon rules Thursday, the day the first New York Times nail-salon article was published. With all due respect to the impressive reporting therein, we ding college kids for writing research papers based on a single source. Do we really think it's prudent for politicians to write laws predicated on the same? Reactionary policy tends to be bad policy.

So does policy based on othering and exoticizing groups of people. On a HuffPost Live segment I participated in this morning, several of the other panelists critiqued the system wherein nail salon employees work solely for tips during weeks to months of training before receiving a regular wage, and sometimes must pay the salon owner for the training. Can you think of any other industry operating under such an exploitative system?, the host asked. They could not. 

But what about internships—many of which involve unpaid work without so much as a promise of employment thereafter? What about the wannabe stylists at fancy, organic Aveda salons, who also work for nothing but tips during their training period? What about people who pay school tuition plus an up-front cut to the state for licensing before being permitted to work? How is that scenario any different than paying a small business owner in the community to train you directly? In general, we recognize that people may choose to do all of these things, however suboptimal, based on a rational assessment of future benefits. Here's a snippet from my post last Friday on the issue:

Would workers be better off with no jobs or means to support themselves? Living back in their home countries? Maybe in some cases, yes, but we don't know because we are not them. And I tend to believe that immigrant salon workers, being as intelligent and rational as the rest of us, are capable of weighing their own interests and situations and acting accordingly. 

It was the most criticized part of my post by liberals on social media. Is it bad to be a slave? We don't know, we're not them!, folks mocked. 

But we're not talking about slavery or involuntary servitude. We're talking about people who choose, every day, to go into these jobs. They might not have a lot of other options (thanks in part to U.S. immigration policy), but it's insulting to those who've had to endure the horrors of slavery to say women getting paid in tips are slaves. 

There is certainly value in recognizing the acknowledging the effects of power differentials and privilege. These's also risk in reading too much into them. When you see the same practices as unconscionably exploitative in foreign or unfamiliar communities that you see as standard in your own, you might be perverting privilege theory to play savior. At the very least, you might not be thinking these issues through. It feels good to say, "This is bad. Let's send the government in to stop it." It does good to actually consider the unique needs of underprivileged communities, the reality of their interactions with law enforcement, and the unintended consequences of sending the ultimate power differential (state power) their way. I'm seeing way too many people content to stop at step one. 

Photo Credit: duluoz cats/Flickr

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  • ||

    This would be a better story if it was Arnold in CA trying to get these laws passed.

    That way when he signed the bill he could look in the camera and say "Nailed it" in that cool accent of his.

  • LynchPin1477||

    "Hey nail salon owners: cut it!"

  • Pro Libertate||

    "You've been. . .manicured."

  • LynchPin1477||

    I wonder what is more effective: regulations or placebos?

  • Hugh Akston||

    Where can we get these placebos?!

  • Pro Libertate||

    From placebo dealers.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Maybe what they should do is issue regulations that actually do nothing at all. That way, they get the political win for "doing something" while not actually hurting the marketplace.

  • Hugh Akston||

    You're operating under the delusional assumption that "not hurting the marketplace" is something Cuomo wants to do.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Maybe we could design a virtual reality experience just for him, where he could go around murdering capitalists and other people that offend him.

  • Hugh Akston||

    I hate to be the one to break this to you, ProLib, but this is the Matrix, and it's set up explicitly to cater to the whims of authoritarian idiots.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Well, then, we need to hack into it and do some reprogramming.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Talk to SugarFree, he's Morpheus.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I'm not taking any pills prescribed by him.

  • ||

    It's not a pill. It's a suppository.

  • Pro Libertate||

    That goes without saying.

  • Hugh Akston||

    "Take the red one, and you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes."

  • Pro Libertate||

    Which is why I exist in limbo, neither in the true or fictional universe.

  • BambiB||

    The regulations are placebos.

    Note that the dingalings proposing these NEW laws propose to ignore the OLD laws - that is, they won't be making any arrests of any criminal aliens they may find while enforcing the nail salon rules.

    Doesn't that make the old laws... placebos?

  • LynchPin1477||

    The Klansman

    ??

  • RBS||

    Nathan Bedford Forest, VIII.

  • Viscount Irish, Slayer of Huns||

    It's American and he's here to say random racist shit like he always does.

    I don't know why reason hasn't banned him yet, along with his other sockpuppet, International Jew.

  • Injun, as in from India||

    ??

    New troll?

    I don't remember seeing a Klansman before.

  • Pro Libertate||

    No one expects the Klannish Inquisition!

  • ||

    When you see the same practices as unconscionably exploitative in foreign or unfamiliar communities that you see as standard in your own, you might be perverting privilege theory to play savior.

    DING DING DING WE HAVE A WINNER

  • Bill Dalasio||

    It was the most criticized part of my post by liberals on social media. Is it bad to be a slave? We don't know, we're not them!, folks mocked.

    No disrespect, Ms. Nolan-Brown, but what do you expect from the proglodytes? You defended the notion of poor people having worse jobs than rich people. It really doesn't matter if the decision was rational or optimal given the situation or how much evidence you present that the situation isn't as bad as they suggest. You sided with the out group against the in group.

    If you want to be tight with the social justice cadres, you better not go with those independent thoughts. The collective has made its decision. Really, you are going to have to decide one of these days whether or not you're going to toe the lion or not.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    It was the most criticized part of my post by liberals on social media. Is it bad to be a slave? We don't know, we're not them!, folks mocked.

    No disrespect, Ms. Nolan-Brown, but what do you expect from the proglodytes? You defended the notion of poor people having worse jobs than rich people. It really doesn't matter if the decision was rational or optimal given the situation or how much evidence you present that the situation isn't as bad as they suggest. You sided with the out group against the in group.

    If you want to be tight with the social justice cadres, you better not go with those independent thoughts. The collective has made its decision. Really, you are going to have to decide one of these days whether or not you're going to toe the lion or not.

  • Loki||

    "Why not get with the program? Join the team and come on for the big win." - progs

  • BiMonSciFiCon||

    "Why not get with the pogrom?" -progressives

    FIFY.

  • My Dog Bites Better Than Yours||

    I would think most of the nail techs are private contractors, They leasing space for a flat monthly fee. They will pay X dollars per month for the table, even if they only take in X-100.

    If this isn't the present system, it will be really fast. Ain't it nice to have the Government looking out for the little guy?

  • Florida Man||

    My wife use to go to a nail salon with an Asian man who worked really hard. The guy was saving up to buy his own nail shop so he wouldn't have to give the house a cut. Oh wait, we can't have that can we? Anyone who lifts themselves out of poverty is a traitor to the collective.

  • ||

    I was gonna say, every salon here seems to be one or two entrepreneurial SE Asians and all of their less driven kith and kin. God forbid they simply live a life their parents couldn't dream of while raising kids who feel like the nail salon is beneath them. It isn't the Progressive Dream, so it must be crushed. The idea that someone running a chain of nail salons makes more than CUNY tenured professors probably makes them insane with jealousy.

  • My Dog Bites Better Than Yours||

    Immigrants working to own their own business. That's just crazy talk! They will have to learn to allow the gov't to help them. That's the American Way™

  • Rhywun||

    politicians recognizing a good opportunity to grab power

    This was my immediate first thought, but then I got to thinking since this regulation is essentially going to kill 90% of the industry what's the point? Power over nothing isn't much power at all.

  • Elizabeth Nolan Brown||

    yeah, more PR move, I think.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    Actually, worse than just a PR move. By rendering them unemployable, it's going to hurt the people it's putatively aimed at helping.

    Seriously, if nativists wanted to pass a law aimed at discouraging immigration, they wouldn't dream up much better than this.

  • tarran||

    Kind of like Bush Sr era luxury tax that singlehandedly did what the Germans and Japanese navies failed to do (killing the U.S. shipbuilding industry)?

  • ||

    The power to kill something is quite the power indeed. Never forget that.

  • Loki||

    Also, by killing the industry, or at least driving the costs up to where only rich women like the governor's wife will be able to afford to go to nail salons, it gets rid of all those icky bourgeois types getting manicures.

  • Elizabeth Nolan Brown||

    I've seen people complain a lot about how these cheap, tacky nail salons proliferate in certain areas. Especially the kinds of immigrant/low-income communities that largely border gentrifying areas. I suspect the new regs will mostly be used selectively to shut down salons in areas where more desirable "development" could go

  • Elizabeth Nolan Brown||

    [meant to quote-mark the "desirable" there, not development, which clearly makes no sense in quotes here.....]

  • Bill Dalasio||

    Of course, never for a minute think that they might have anything in common with those ignorant GOP immigration restrictionists. Because those conservatives want to force out immigrants because of prejudice and bigotry. The progressives want to force out immigrants because they care about them. So, the two things are, like, totally different.

  • Robert||

    One of the biggest reasons nail salons proliferated was that licensed beauticians were needed in beauty parlors, which is where ladies got their nails done previously.

  • LarryA||

    This was my immediate first thought, but then I got to thinking since this regulation is essentially going to kill 90% of the industry what's the point?

    Because 10% of the current nail salons will be much easier to regulate and tax than the current 100%. And the owners of the remaining 10% will be more likely to make the kind of campaign contributions that make elected officials nice to them.

  • tarran||

    The thing that gets me about American is that he's so stupid that he can't figure out how to get to Stormfront. It's possible that he is so stupid he doesn't realize that he's *not* posting at Stormfront.

  • LynchPin1477||

    True story. My wife has blonde hair and brown eyes, and I was wondering how common that was, so I Googled it. Clicked on the first link which seemed to ask the exact same question: Is blonde hair and brown eyes rare?

    Bad idea. It was a Stormfront message board.

    Cleared my browser history after that one.

  • Robert||

    Stormfront must have some interesting articles, then.

  • Raston Bot||

    Have you given any consideration to remittances? Maybe it's not about their own interests.

  • Mickey Rat||

    Which came first, the Times story or Cuomo's notion to regulate this class of business? Is the Times hard hitting journalists, or the governor's catspaw, providing cover for a rank political move?

  • Elizabeth Nolan Brown||

    I was just reminded from another article that they've been wanting to institute a grading system for nail salons (like they do for restaurants) since this time last year but it hasn't had much support. So.....

  • Rhywun||

    Oh totally - I think the most likely explanation for this whole thing is to provide a boost to the civic inspection batallion. And when most of the salons are regulated out of business, they'll just find something else to regulate. Or they'll just sit at their desk and collect a paycheck.

  • Scarecrow Repair||

    Probably a coordinated action. Might be as simple as the reporter asking questions of the regulators, them perking up and sniffing an opportunity, a few questions back and forth, and voila!

  • Rhywun||

    They are both arms of the party machine, so WDATPDIM?

  • Paul.||

    That didn't take long. Perhaps legislators could write laws even before the times does a series. You know, to beat the record.

    They could put three times reporters into a vat and call then "precogs". Only Cuomo would have access to them through his iPad Air.

  • ||

    I'm guessing this is the end of the $20 mani/pedi combo.

  • Paul.||

    Labor exploitation!

  • ||

    Isn't basically half of Manhattans economy underground and staffed by a large percentage of illegal immigrants? It may be less than half but it HAS to be in the double digits.

  • Paul.||

    If that's true, New York suddenly doesn't seem as bad as I've made it out to be.

  • ||

    There is so much shit that goes on underground in New York. People don't understand how huge it is and how many people there are. Even a totally obnoxious government like the city government just does not have the resources to control all that. If you want to live under the radar there it is very easy.

  • Robert||

    NY City is so expensive, people need to at least work some off the books to afford it.

  • Rhywun||

    In some industries, once you get past the top few big players, it's basically all illegals. Garments, restaurants, travel agents, the aforementioned salons to name a few.

  • DJ1706||

    Sounds like he's about as brilliant as his brother.

  • Scarecrow Repair||

    My first reaction, as always, was bureaucrats seeking to expand their empire, and not much beyond rolling my eyes. People learning for just tops? None of my business, entirely theirs, end of story as far as I am concerned.

    I like the analogy with paying to learn at college. Unfortunately, due to my innate disinterest in either minding other people's business or trying to change their opinions, I find it really hard to make the leap you did, so I'm always appreciative of people who have that ability.

  • Ted S.||

    People learning for just tops? None of my business,

    I guess I'm not the only one who'd prefer to be paid in bottoms.

  • Loki||

    Governor Cuomo: "Immigrant salon workers in trouble! Something must be done! We've got to save our phoney baloney jobs! Harumph! Harumph! ... I didn't get a harumph out of that guy! "

  • Scarecrow Repair||

    Oh man, would that it took no more!

  • Steve G||

  • Paul.||

    And yet the best the Times can muster on Hillary's shady dealings is "some people say" type articles. If it were [insert non-democratic candidate here] they'd have 12 reports assigned to the beat doing an archaeological investigation, dusting off every fucking shard of pottery with a camel hair paintbrush.

  • ||

    What, no "Better Call Saul" jokes, yet? I are disappoint.

  • Russell||

    Conisdering the large overlap between acrylate dental compounds and fiingernail adhesives and solvents, willl Cuomo ban the use in dentistry of anything banished from a manicure parlor ?

  • Marty Feldman's Eyes||

    Regardless, putting law enforcement agents in increased contact with marginalized groups seldom works to their benefit.

    This cannot be repeated often enough loudly enough.

  • Rhywun||

    Yup, and nobody knows this better than said marginalized groups.

  • ||

    Um, Jewish isn't a race; it's a religion.

  • Rhywun||

    If you ignore it, it might go away.

  • Paul.||

    Why does no one speak for the marginalized cops?

  • Bryan C||

    "The biggest part of Cuomo's plan will send state and city inspectors into nail salons regularly, which may sound good in theory."

    Which theory is that? There's no problem that can't be made worse by sending another set of government functionaries to go frown at it.

  • Elizabeth Nolan Brown||

    I meant sound good in theory *to a lot of people.* Obvs, this crowd knows better.

  • Mokers||

    The new regulations will add a few new payroll positions while at the same time adding a few new people that need to be bribed in order to run a business in NY. What is not to like?

  • Rich||

    nail salons will be required to post notices in six languages about workers' rights

    Vietnamese, Spanish, Ebonics, English, ... and what else?

  • Rhywun||

    Why stop at six? I speak German - give me nice a fat pension and I'll translate some damn signs for them.

  • Paul.||

    If you speak German then that pension has already been allocated to the Greek Crisis cost center.

    You're gonna have to work for free.

  • XM||

    Korean, Chinese

  • LarryA||

    Braille

  • R C Dean||

    If one of the problems that Cuomo is trying to solve is worker exposure to chemical fumes, then these workers are going to have to wear some pretty serious PPE. The "germ control" face mask won't cut. We're talking more along the lines of a NIOSH mask. Depending on what and how much needs to be filtered, those can be pretty heavy-duty.

  • XM||

    There are lots of Korean owned nail salons and beauty parlors in NY. Their nail salon association has accused the NY article for its bias and has promised a response to the crackdown. It's clear as what these inspections will do to a lot of these businesses.

    I guess this is one of those moments liberals get to play republicans and insist that the "law is that law". Even though these shadow economy was created when they neglected to enforce immigration laws.

    Employers hire illegals precisely to skirt regulation and save on cost. Even Helen Keller would know that the shadow economy runs on cash transactions. Liberal simply don't understand this. Illegal aliens are not some good Samaritans who come here only to fill voids left by natives.

    I guess if the libs start cracking down harder on immigrants for wage theft, some of them might wonder what the GOP (the media insisting every second that they need immigrant support) can do for them. The irony.

  • retiredfire||

    Reactionary policy tends to be bad policy.
    You mean like when the reaction to the WNA led to the 14th amendment?

  • BambiB||

    Isn't it about time to recognize that the solution to most of society's present problems is less government... not more?

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