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New York Nail Salons are fighting for their labor rights

New York Nail Salons are fighting for their labor rights

For Maya Bhusal Basnet, a Nepalese who left her country in 2009, the United States was a “dream”, but after working in a nail salon all these years, she has gone through so much trouble that she does not even dare to “tell about it. her children. “”.

At the age of 46, he has decided to fight for the Nepalese organization Adhikaar to fight for the rights of this group of 17,000 souls who work in nearly 5,000 nail salons across New York State, most of them immigrant women from Asia and Latin America.

In New York, nail salons are ubiquitous, as well as uncertainty, miserable wages, and health risks in this sector, who hope new laws will help improve their daily lives.

In April, hundreds of nail salons took to the streets of Manhattan to claim their rights: a mandatory minimum wage ($ 15 / hour), overtime pay, better access to protective gloves and masks, a lunch break and health insurance.

The campaign, introduced by a coalition of organizations backed by Democratic lawmakers, calls for the creation of an organization where business owners and employees sit to define the minimum working conditions for this group.

After publication in 2015 in the newspaper New York Times Following an investigation into profiteering, the authorities took matters into their own hands.

The state assures that since 2016, more than 1,800 work-related offenses have been reported in these offices and $ 2.2 million has been returned to affected employees.

The end of wage payments with a tip and a minimum of $ 15 per hour “have improved working conditions,” they say.

But Maya Bhusal Basnet assures that much is unfinished behind the windows of these varieties where nails have become beauty and fantasy.

According to her, “not all” owners pay the minimum wage and when they do, they “reduce working hours,” she explains in Nepali, translated by a colleague from Adhikaar.

“How can I survive working 26 or 27 hours” a week or being “sent home because there are no customers” to not have to pay?

“Unforeseen hours” and “wage theft” (which are not paid for all hours worked) are a reality, according to a recent study by the Cornell University Institute of Labor.

“Many employees have difficulty paying their bills (…) and they have little access to social protection. Most do not have health insurance,” one of its authors, Zoë West, a Cornell researcher, told AFP.

According to official statistics, in 2021 the capital area of ​​New York was paid 14.31 dollars per hour, less than the legal minimum, but Zoë West warns that many workers in the sector, the most marginalized, do not even earn that much.

Despite several attempts, employers’ organizations in the industry have not responded to requests from AFP to release their publication.

Health is compounded by worries about reaching the end of the month. Maya Bhusal Basnet describes skin problems, persistent coughs and breathing difficulties she often has due to substances such as acetone or acrylic paints that she always uses.

Authorities also warn of the dangers to pregnant women and fetuses, despite the lack of scientific evidence.

In Adhikaar, some women have long talked about repeated miscarriages.

From 2016, new establishments will have to be ventilated, but the old ones had five years to adapt, although the term of office has been extended to October 2022 due to “economic difficulties” caused by COVID-19.

For Zoë West, one of the problems lies in the structure of the sector, where small companies compete in fierce competition for prices, margins and wages.

Deepa Shrish Singgali, also Nepali, who now lives in Queens, wants to “raise prices but it’s impossible” as there are “fewer customers than before the pandemic” and to attract them, competition has dropped them.

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