The New York Times is reporting on problems for workers in the nail salon industry. Problems related to long hours, low wages, and health concerns from exposure to harmful chemicals.
"Owners often force employees to work 60 hours a week while failing to pay overtime or allow lunch breaks. And lower manicure prices mean lower tips for workers who spend their days cutting cuticles and painting on polish."
"In a 2004 survey of salon employees in New York City, 37 percent said they often or sometimes had skin problems, 37 percent said they suffered from eye irritation, 57 percent from allergies, 66 percent from neck or back discomfort and 18 percent from asthma."
Ms. Lee, the salon owner on Long Island, said many Koreans went into the business because entry costs are low, with entrepreneurs able to open salons for $50,000 to $100,000. Asian immigrants, whether Koreans two decades ago or Chinese today, often become manicurists because the job requires little English and only a few weeks of training."
I've never had a manicure in my life and don't really plan to start getting them anytime soon, but I'm still left wondering what consumers could do to help bring about change. Would the industry improve for workers if customers were more aware? If there was a higher demand for salons with manicurists who make a living wage? Or would that only privilege the salons that are able to afford to charge higher prices and hurt the women who work for less pay? I'm also wondering if that many chemicals (or ones that harmful) are really necessary to the grooming of nails. Wouldn't it be better for all involved if the companies that make these products were held to a higher standard of safety and somehow forced to develop safer ones? Thoughts?