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AsAmNews: Healthy nail Salon bill potentially blocked for the third year

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Nail Salon workers rally for a bill enhancing worker safety. Credit: Mekong NYC

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.”

Image by AALDEF
Nearly 50 nail Salon workers rally to demand better working conditions. Credit: Mekong NYC

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. 

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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.”

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Read the article here: https://asamnews.com/2024/06/05/vietnamese-american-nail-salon-workers-protection-bill-stalled-again/