HomeHealthHealthy nail Salon bill potentially blocked for the third year

Healthy nail Salon bill potentially blocked for the third year

By Rachel Lu

For the third year in a row a bill designed to improve working conditions and protect the health of nail salon workers, could potentially be blocked by the New York State Senate.

Coalition partners and workers recently organized a “nail salon caravan,” where over 50 workers from all over New York City traveled to State Sen. Stewart-Cousins’ office in Yonkers and Heastie’s office in Gun Hill to advocate for the bill to be voted on. 

The Nail Salon Minimum Standards Council Act (S1800/A378), has received support from 26 legislators on the Senate side and 33 on the Assembly side, however the bill is currently blocked from being voted on by Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Speaker of New York State Assembly Carl Heastie. 

Catherine Kien, a Vietnamese organizer with Mekong NYC who has been working on the nail salon campaign for over a year, told AsAmNews that the Healthy Nail Salon coalition is pushing last minute efforts for the bill to get on the senate floor before the session closes for the summer.

“We’re trying to communicate to Heastie and Stuart-Cousins that this is super urgent and we can’t wait another year, we can’t wait another session,” Kien told AsAmNews. “It’s shameful that our bill is being blocked again.”

Nearly 50 nail Salon workers rally to demand better working conditions.
Nearly 50 nail Salon workers rally to demand better working conditions. Mekong NYC photo

The coalition and the scope of the issues around nail salon safety have grown in the past three years. Khamarin Nhann, the campaign director and co-founder of Mekong NYC, said they initially organized around a health justice lens, focusing on nail salon workers’ exposure to hazardous chemicals for long hours that lead to a variety of health complications. 

Three years later, the campaign has grown into a diverse and intersectional coalition that also concerns women’s justice and labor rights. Kien shared that there are at least four different language interpreters at each of the meetings, bearing testament to the diversity of the workers that are organizing around the issue. 

The nail salon industry is predominantly Vietnamese Americans and Southeast Asian Americans. In New York, nail technicians and nail salons are 73% Asian American and 88% foreign-born workers. 

“There’s been such tremendous growth in organizing that’s been happening, to the point where workers are fed up and are demanding all of the things that are part of the bill,” said Nhann. “There are such a wide array of different workers and community members that are showing up and learning for the first time that we can do something to push back and make policy changes.”

Despite the large coalition that has formed around the issue, the bill is still sidelined by politicians. Kien recounts one elected official saying that the price for a manicure would likely increase by $5 to $10 dollars if there is a minimum standard for nail salons, so they are hesitant to support the bill because their constituents would complain about this increase in price.

For Kien, this is merely an excuse to block the bill because nail salon workers’ livehoods and safety are at stake when the industry is not standardized. Rather, Kien says lawmakers’ reluctance reflects the lack of political support for working class women of color, who make up the large majority of this coalition.

Nail salon workers in New York rally for better protections.
A bill to enhance the safety of nail salon workers faces defeat for third straight year. Mekong NYC photo

“We are a coalition that is run, made by, and made for working class women of color, and honestly, people in power don’t like that,” said Kien. “The intersections of our identity aren’t as appealing [for elected officials] to support.”

After meeting with lawmakers in Albany, Nahn concludes that the budget is another major reason that the bill is being blocked, so part of Mekong’s work is to show elected officials that investing money into standardizing the nail salon industry has a large impact.

The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) has collaboratively lobbied in Albany as part of the Healthy Nail Salon Coalition, alongside nail technicians and industry experts. Elizabeth Koo, the senior counsel for AALDEF said the bill has a huge impact on the industry and stressed the urgency of this moment.

“We’re running out of time with only a few weeks left in this legislative session,” Koo told AsAmNews.”Nail techs have been organizing and campaigning for years to pass this important bill.  They cannot wait any longer and we urge our legislative leaders to get on board and act now.”

Jessica Ramos, the New York State Senator representing the neighborhood of Queens, co-sponsored the Nail Salon Minimum Standards Council Act. Ramos did not respond in time for the publication of this article.

AsAmNews is published by the non-profit, Asian American Media Inc. Follow us on FacebookX, InstagramTikTok and YouTube. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to support our efforts to produce diverse content about the AAPI communities. We are supported in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.


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