NEW YORK -- New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a plan Monday to combat labor abuse in nail salons. The action follows a report by the New York Times that exposed practices of wage theft and abuse within New York City's nail salons.
The nearly $9 billion nail salon industry grew by 10 percent in the last year alone, but its 79,000 employees have little protection. The taskforce announced by Governor Cuomo is designed to protect the 15,000 nail technicians who work in New York.
"This is great news to me, it's a relief," said Nadine Abramcyk, owner of Tenoverten nail salon. "I think it's really important for the industry that light is being shone on these issues."
The workers at Tenoverten make minimum wage and more. But Governor Cuomo says far too many -- mostly immigrants from Asia or South America -- are being victimized by employers.
"They're not here legally, they don't have working papers, they have to put food on the table, they have to support a child, so they have to do what they have to do," said Governor Cuomo.
The governor's announcement comes after an investigation by the New York Times. The report said some workers were paid as little as $1.50 an hour and were forced to pay as much as $200 in so-called training fees. Last year, the New York Times says, state labor officials investigated 29 salons and found 116 labor violations.
The multi-agency task force will conduct in-person investigations of salons; create new health regulations to protect workers from exposure to nail product chemicals; recover unpaid wages; and shut down violators.
Abramcyk says the consumers who flock to the salons for their weekly $10 manicures have to be part of the solution by asking questions.
"If you go to a salon regularly, speak up, ask how they clean their tools, ask if they are happy where they work," said Abramcyk.
Governor Cuomo says the enforcement task force will begin work immediately. At the top of the agenda is increasing employees awareness of their rights by requiring those protections be posted in six languages in every salon.