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Nail salon workers to rally in Albany

By Madina Toure

State Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing), along with as many as 700 to 1,000 workers and owners from Asian-operated small businesses, including nail salons, will travel to Albany next week to protest what they see as the state’s selective enforcement of the nail salon law that they believe unfairly targets their community.

The rally, “Albany Advocacy Day: Protect Small Businesses,” will be held Monday at 1 p.m. in the Well of the Legislative Office Building at 198 State St. in Albany.

Kim, in addition to representatives from the Chinese Nail Salon Association of East America, the Chinese American Nail Salon Association and the Korean American Nail Salon Association will lead the rally.

Chartered buses heading to Albany will leave from the Sheraton LaGuardia East Hotel at 135-20 39th Ave. in Flushing at 8 a.m. and return to Flushing at 7 p.m.

Kim said other elected officials were also expected to be in attendance.

Based on a New York Times investigative report in May, Gov. Andrew Cuomo launched a task force and imposed emergency regulations May 18 to crack down on nail salons

Kim has argued that Cuomo has extended his state of emergency three times to unilaterally take punitive measures against nail salon workers and owners.

“They felt that the small businesses have been villified, targeted and to an extent demonized for the last several months and they wanted to come together and show that there’s a better way to move forward and protect the small business community,” he said.

One of the main objectives of the rally is to encourage the state to pass the Transparency in Enforcement Act, which would amend Cuomo’s nail salon law, mandating that every state agency, board or commission that directly or by contract reports demographic data stemming from any inspections, pending cases or penalties to base the data on race, gender and region. The bill was introduced by Kim and state Sen. Jesse Hamilton (D-Brooklyn).

The assemblyman said he has been in communication with Cuomo’s office.

“We even went as far as inviting them to the actual rally to talk about the areas the governor has focused on to try to help small businesses,” he added. “I think it’s important that we work with the governor to try to come up with other solutions as well.”

Cuomo’s office could not be reached for comment.

Peter Yu of the Chinese Nail Salon Association, said his members were blindsided by Cuomo’s punitive policies.

“Our members are beyond frustrated,” Yu said. “All we want is a fair shot.”

Sangho Lee of the Korean Nail Salon Association said they just wanted to be treated fairly and equally.

“Shouldn’t this governor, who preached about supporting small businesses in his 2016 State of the State speech, step up to help us?” Lee said.

Joe Lin of the Chinese-American Nail Salon Association, echoed similar sentiments.

“Our community no longer will sit idly by and let the governor continue to vilify, target and cripple our hard-working small business owners,” Lin said.

Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtour[email protected]local.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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