The New York Times just published an investigative piece on the business of nails salons. In “the Price of Nice Nails,” Sarah Maslin Nir exposes the terrible conditions and horrible mistreatment of manicurist working in New York and Connecticut. Here are some of the most shocking findings:
1) When they first get the job, new employees must pay a $100-$200 entry fee. Then, the salon owner does not pay them until they are deemed “worthy” of a $30-$40/day paycheck–that’s about $3 an hour, well below the New York State minimum wage of $8.75. It can take months for a manicurist to first get paid.
2) Manicurists must pay to learn new skills. “There are actually two price lists at [Ms. Ren’s] salon. One is for customers. The other is jotted down in a hidden-away notebook and lists the prices employees must pay the owner to learn new skills: such as $100 for eyebrow waxing, $100 to learn how to apply gel and cure it with ultraviolet light. A raise would require a new skill — her boss suggested eyebrows and gel — and the cash fee.”
3) There is a caste system within the industry. About 80% of salons in the city are Korean-owned, while the majority of employees are Chinese and Hispanic. Korean workers, especially if they are young and pretty, usually get first pick of jobs in the city and earn 15-25% more than their peers. Hispanic and other non-Asian workers are at the bottom of the hierarchy. “Ana Luisa Camas, 32, an Ecuadorean immigrant, said that at a Korean-owned Connecticut salon where she worked, she and her Hispanic colleagues were made to sit in silence during their entire 12-hour shifts, while the Korean manicurists were free to chat. “For two years I suffered from headaches,” she said. “It was just the stress that was killing me.”
Will you think twice about your next manicure now? Let us know in the comments below and read the entire expose here.