Nepali immigrants pushing for better working conditions at city’s nail salons
New York Daily News – There’s a revolution afoot at your local nail salon.
Nepali immigrants who keep New Yorkers’ toes and fingers looking good are banding together to push for better working conditions.
More than 50 have joined a campaign by Queens nonprofit Adhikaar, which plans to conduct a citywide survey of manicurists.
Joining with other immigrant groups, they hope to shed light on the sometimes ugly side of the beauty industry: low pay, long hours and safety hazards.
Hundreds of Nepali women work in salons, and Adhikaar is pushing for the licensing exams to be given in their native language.
“A lot of people don’t have licenses, and because they don’t have licenses they become more vulnerable,” said Executive Director Luna Ranjit.
Pema Sherpa has been working in salons for eight years – and still remembers her reaction to her first pedicure.
“I cried,” she said, explaining that touching a stranger’s foot is taboo in her culture.
Sherpa, 43, has made her peace with that aspect of her job – but not with others.
“If we get busy, the employers don’t care if we have eaten or not. We are not even given time to eat,” the mother of three said.
Workers in poorly ventilated shops say they get headaches and asthma attacks. Some are improperly paid as “independent contractors” to sidestep labor rules.
Sherpa, who now works in Brooklyn, said that at one Roosevelt Island salon
she earned $75 for a 10-hour day.
“There was a tiny room that was used as a waxing room. We had to keep our food there and eat there,” she said.
She clashed with the owner and was fired.
Shirley Lin of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund said labor violations in the city’s 3,500 salons are common.
But Grace Lee, president of the Korean-American Nail Salon Association of New York, said practices have improved.
“I think mostly people do follow the law now,” she said. “In my business, we do everything properly
By Erica Pearson