By Madina Toure
Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into a law a bill last week that would shut down unlicensed nail salons and grant trainee status to vulnerable unlicensed workers.
The Department of State will be able to stop unlicensed or uninsured activities and impose financial penalties for violations at higher levels.
Unlicensed nail practitioners, with their new trainee status, will be able to continue working while they study for their licensing exam instead of depending exclusively on high-cost education programs.
State Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing) said that the initial bill employed a “shut the doors down and ask questions later type of approach,” noting that they were able to get rid of a provision that would criminalize businesses for not having a new liability insurance that is not offered by insurance companies.
“I think the original proposal that was set by the governor was punitive in nature and it was more of a shut the doors down and ask questions later type of approach and the workers as well as the mom and pop store owners pushed back significantly because when you deal with any industry that’s primarily run by immigrant owners, there’s complexities behind those issues,” Kim said.
Cuomo said the passage of the bill demonstrates New York state’s willingness to take a stand against worker exploitation.
“New York offers a promise that our arms and hearts are open to those who come here to work and build a better future for themselves—and we will not tolerate worker exploitation, period,” he said. “It’s not a Democratic or a Republican issue—it’s what we believe, and together we’re going to make this a reality.”
He also announced the creation of a statewide task force to eliminate worker exploitation issues in multiple state agencies.
The task force will consist of 10 state agencies, including the Department of State, the Labor Department and the Department of Agriculture and Markets.
The bill also implements new regulations for salons to tackle new bond and insurance requirements, improved personal protective equipment and required posting of any cease-and-desist notices issued to businesses operating without a license and a new bill of rights. The bill of rights is available in 12 languages.
Regulations will be proposed with strengthened ventilation requirements and a review of chemicals used in nail salons is currently under way.
Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtour