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New York Announces Crackdown On Nail Salons


New York's nail salons are under a microscope after an investigation by The New York Times. A report found that many workers are overworked, underpaid and exposed to dangerous chemicals. Today Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a crackdown on these poor working conditions. NPR's Hansi Lo Wang reports.

HANSI LO WANG, BYLINE: Dozens of inspectors will be making rounds to some of the thousands of nail salons across New York state.


GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO: The nail salons need to know that there's a possibility that an inspector will walk in the door.

WANG: And that possibility is how Governor Andrew Cuomo is warning salon owners not to exploit their employees.


CUOMO: Sometimes they're of questionable legal status so they're afraid to go to the authorities to make a complaint, and they are extorted and they are victimized.

WANG: Workers will now be required to wear gloves and face masks and owners will have to have a bond or insurance policy so they can cover any claims for unpaid wages. Those are just some of the government's new regulations after a year-long investigation by Sarah Maslin Nir of The New York Times. She told NPR and WBUR's Here and Now that she was inspired to report the story after getting a pedicure from a worker at a 24-hour salon in Manhattan.

SARAH MASLIN NIR: And she said, I work 24 hours a day, six days a week, I sleep in a barracks above the salon and on the seventh day, I go home and sleep for 24 hours and I come right back. And I thought, this woman is enslaved.

WANG: The Korean-American Nail Salon Association represents the majority of New York City's salons. It declined an interview request about today's announcement. For Marjory Kraus of Manhattan, the news hasn't changed her routines. She stopped into her regular nail salon over the weekend.

MARJORY KRAUS: I've talked to the person who does my nails, so - I think that she'd like to have more days off, but I but I think that she has a family so...

WANG: You'll continue giving them business?

KRAUS: I will, yes.

WANG: And to customers who feel less confident about their nail salons, Governor Cuomo says, the next time you get a manicure or pedicure ask the workers if they're being treated fairly and if the answer is no, he says, get your nails done somewhere else. Hansi Lo Wang, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Hansi Lo Wang (he/him) is a national correspondent for NPR reporting on the people, power and money behind the U.S. census.