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City Is Looking Into ‘Deplorable Conditions’ of NYC’s Nail Industry

People lament the state of journalism these days, but when you see it working as it was truly meant to — to inform the people and enact real change — it’s a wonderful, soul-affirming thing. It’s too early to see just how substantive the reforms will be, but days after the New York Times published a jarring two-part expose on the slave-like conditions of New York City’s nail salons, Governor Cuomo cut through bureaucratic red tape to create a task force to investigate salons. And now, Mayor Bill de Blasio is taking action as well.

The New York Times reports that the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs will investigate the employment agencies who place workers at salons, and that there will be “a ‘day of action’ next week to inform manicurists of their rights.”

Next Thursday, about 500 city workers, officials and volunteers will attempt to inform nail salon workers of their rights:

Starting at 7:30 a.m., for an hour and a half, volunteers will stand at subway stops and other places in neighborhoods including Flushing, Queens, and Sunset Park, Brooklyn, where many nail salon workers live and congregate, passing out information in seven languages about job training programs, workers’ rights and tips for consumers. Later they will visit shops in areas with a high concentration of salons, like the Upper East Side and Upper West Side of Manhattan and Forest Hills in Queens. The goal is to drop in on 800 to 1,000 businesses, city officials said. There were nearly 2,000 salons in New York City in 2012, according to census data from that year, the most recent statistics available.

Letters will also be mailed to salon owners reminding them of their obligation to provide paid sick leave. The letters are in English with sentences in other languages directing readers to a government website with more information. About 70 to 80 percent of nail salon owners in the city are of Korean descent, according to the Korean American Nail Salon Association.

(Photo: Shortcuts Smarter Business Technology)