Collaborative and UCLA Releases First National Study of Labor Conditions in Nail Salon Industry

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

November 27, 2018

Media Contact: Veena Hampapur, veenash@ucla.edu, (310) 489-3957    

UCLA Releases First National Study of Labor Conditions in Nail Salon Industry

Nail salon workers face labor issues in an expanding multi-billion dollar industry

LOS ANGELES - Key issues, trends, and areas of oversight in the multi-billion dollar nail salon industry are highlighted in Nail Files: A Study of Nail Salon Workers and Industry in the United States, a new report by the UCLA Labor Center (a unit of the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment) in partnership with the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative. This report is the first to examine the nail salon industry nationally with a focus on labor conditions.

The study finds that 78% of nail salon employees (excluding the self-employed) are low-wage workers. This is more than double the national rate of 33% for all industries.

"Getting your nails done used to be a luxury for the wealthy, but now it's relatively inexpensive due to new tools, market demand, and the low wages paid to workers," said Preeti Sharma, the report’s lead author. “Full-time workers earn less than half of what workers earn in other sectors, and at times they are paid at a low flat rate rather than hourly.”

Nail salon workers experience challenging work conditions and labor enforcement issues, which include minimum wage and overtime violations, harassment and surveillance, and pressure to work while sick. Misclassification is also a key concern.

“30% of nail salon workers are self-employed, which is triple the national average. There is a worry that a number of workers are being misclassified as independent contractors as a way around labor laws and protections,” said Saba Waheed, Research Director at the UCLA Labor Center.

The report notes that nail salons are primarily owned and staffed by immigrants and refugees. The majority of salons are small mom-and-pop businesses with 68% having fewer than 5 employees. The labor force is predominantly Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese, Nepali, Tibetan, and Latinx, with 81% women and 79% foreign-born.

“There is a lack of understanding of labor laws on the part of both employers and employees. Salon owners have a responsibility to treat workers well and follow labor laws. It is also critical that workers and owners have access to multilingual resources explaining workers’ rights and health and safety issues, as well as reproductive health and immigrant rights,” said Lisa Fu, Director at the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative.

The nail salon industry is expected to grow at almost twice the rate of other U.S. industries in the next decade, and report authors make recommendations for key stakeholders: ensure quality jobs and labor protections for nail salon workers; guarantee workplace protections and their enforcement; support high-road businesses and good employers; and assure health and safety of nail salon workers.

The report is based on existing literature, policy reports, worker stories, and government and industry sources.

Download the full report here: http://bit.ly/Nail_Files

**Please contact Veena Hampapur to schedule interviews.**

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The UCLA Labor Center believes that a public university belongs to the people and should advance quality education and employment for all. Every day we bring together workers, students, faculty, and policymakers to address the most critical issues facing working people today. Our research, education, and policy work lifts industry standards, creates jobs that are good for communities, and strengthens immigrant rights, especially for students and youth. The UCLA Labor Center is housed in the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, a multidisciplinary research center dedicated to the study, teaching, and discussion of labor and employment issues at UCLA.

The California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative’s mission is to improve the health, safety and rights of the nail and beauty care workforce to achieve a healthier, more sustainable and just industry. The Collaborative brings together a wide variety of organizations with diverse expertise. We are a 20-member statewide coalition representing the nail salon community, environmental and reproductive justice, public health and workers’ rights organizations

Statement of Solidarity from the Collaborative and Black Women For Wellness


The California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative (Collaborative) and Black Women for Wellness (BWW) condemn the anti-black racism and violence against customers that took place at New Red Apple Nails Salon in New York and a beauty supply store in Oklahoma in August 2018. As organizations that work in deep connection with nail and hair salon workers as well as the larger Asian and Black community respectively, we know that structural racism pits communities of color against one another. There is a long history of both triumph and tension among our communities where we have come together to address civil rights and inequalities and also where structural oppression through racism, anti-blackness, anti-refugee, and anti-immigrant sentiments have caused deep fractures between our communities.  Through our lens, our histories and our shared vision of a just world, we seek to address the complicated relationships between African American and Asian American communities. Our hope is to engage in what we know are uncomfortable and challenging issues and to lean in and move forward to trusted relationships, shared values and focus on the real challenges to our freedom and justice.
 
The salon industry is uniquely positioned at an intersection where white beauty standards, gender inequities and economic discrimination are experienced by women of color. Our communities are exposed to harsh chemicals in the salons (hair and nail). We suffer the ill effects of that exposure, including reproductive health challenges, cancers and economic injustice. Relationships in the community are still very much transactional, little trust is being built, and the media continues to broadcast impossible beauty standards. And in the case of the salon industry, these impossible beauty and gender standards are set within a backdrop of poor compensation, labor violations, chronic occupational health conditions and issues, and where the safety of personal care products is dictated by the multi-billion dollar cosmetics industry themselves.
 
Black Women for Wellness, the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative as well many other groups have turned our attention to focus on root of the problems. In a time where all of our communities are being attacked, it is even more critical for us to engage in true multi-racial, multi-issue conversations and collaborations. We believe that salon owners have a responsibility to ensure workplace safety, including addressing instances of worker-customer miscommunication and conflict, de-escalating any tensions, and ensuring a professional workplace environment for all. We believe that both consumers and workers should have dignity in safe and healthy salons in their communities. We believe that a divide and conquer mentality that fuels our community’s animosity against each other will not undo structural racism and white supremacy, nor will it foster the economic well-being and reproductive justice that our communities deserve. We call for inclusion, equity, and justice for immigrant, refugee, Asian, Black and all communities of color in this workforce and in our communities overall.
 
We are also committed to initiating community dialogues that foster respect, counter anti-black, anti-immigrant / anti-refugee discrimination, as well as a stop exploitation at the salon at all levels. We will continue to come together to challenge toxic chemicals in products, and toxic behaviors at salons.
 
Black Women for Wellness
California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative

Contact:

 

AB 2775 - CA Governor Signs Historic Law Requiring Ingredient Disclosure in Professional Salon Products

Contact:
Catherine Porter
Policy Director, CA Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative
510-393-2358 
catherineaporter@gmail.com

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – On Friday, September 14th, 2018 in a major victory for worker and consumer right to know, Governor Brown signed into law a ground-breaking bill that requires manufacturers to disclose ingredients on the labels of professional cosmetics.

Until now, only retail cosmetics manufacturers were required to list product ingredients. This same transparency was not required of professional cosmetics, even if products contained ingredients linked to severe health concerns like cancer, birth defects, and respiratory issues. Introduced by Assembly Member Ash Kalra (D-San Jose), AB 2775 is the first such law to take effect in the nation.

“San Jose is home to the largest population of Vietnamese people in a city outside of Vietnam. Nail salon workers are predominantly Vietnamese Americans, often women of immigrant background with limited access to information on workplace safety. Salon workers do not apply professional cosmetics only once or twice daily, but rather spend 8-10 hours a day exposed to unlabeled chemicals, which are increasingly associated with reports of headaches, dizziness, rashes, and even linked to miscarriages, birth defects, cancers, and respiratory illnesses,” said Assemblymember Kalra. “AB 2775 provides salon workers with more ingredient transparency and increased awareness so they can make informed decisions about their use or avoidance of chemicals that may pose a workplace risk.”

Co-sponsored by California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative, Black Women for Wellness, Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, and Women’s Voices for the Earth, and endorsed by small and large cosmetic companies like Beautycounter and Unilever, AB 2775 generated near unanimous bipartisan support in both the California Assembly and Senate and had no recorded opposition.

“We applaud Assemblymember Ash Kalra for his leadership in authoring this bill, and the state legislature and Governor Brown for passing and signing this first-in-the nation law to improve right-to-know for salon professionals. For years, the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative and local Healthy Nail Salon Recognition Programs (HNSRP) across the state have provided opportunities for nail salon workers and owners to learn about and prevent exposures to toxic chemicals in professional cosmetics. AB 2775helps ensure that salon professionals can access product information that is critical to their health, and helps the Collaborative and HNSRPs in our work of making sure nail salon professionals’ right-to-know is in full effect,” said Catherine Porter, Policy Director with the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative.

Studies routinely show that women working in nail salons report acute health concerns such as rashes, headaches, dizziness, and breathing difficulties, as well as miscarriages, birth defects and cancers. [1] Hairdressers are at increased risk of miscarriage and babies born with cleft palates. In addition, studies found that hairdressers have greater risks of dying from neurological conditions including, Alzheimer’s disease and pre-senile dementia, compared to workers in other jobs. [2]

“Passing AB 2775 isn’t simply about listing ingredients – it’s about eliminating the barriers that prevent workers from having the information they need to avoid concerning ingredients including carcinogens like formaldehyde, or toluene, a neurological and developmental toxicant - many of which salon professionals repeatedly handle on a daily basis," said Jamie McConnell, Director of Programs and Policy at Women’s Voices for the Earth. "Now, for the first time ever, salon workers will have the transparency they need in order to choose products that are safer for themselves and their clients.” 

Exposures faced by Black hair care professionals and consumers are of special concern: Black women generally experience more aggressive forms of cancer and have higher mortality rates from the disease, as well as less access to treatment. [3] They also bear the burden of higher rates of miscarriage, low birth weights, and infant deaths compared to non-Hispanic white women.

“AB 2775 is a huge step for the community of hair stylists that we work with and all salon workers throughout California--the ability for workers to be able to turn over the products that they are using on clients every day and accessing a list of ingredients is imperative for them to be able to make informed decisions about their health and prevent exposure to toxic chemicals found in salon products,” said Marissa Chan, Environmental Research and Policy Manager at Black Women for Wellness. “Black Women for Wellness’ Healthy Hair Initiative is focused on providing Black hair stylists the tools and knowledge to reduce exposure to toxic chemicals in their workplace."

“When it comes to breast cancer and other serious health problems, there’s no justification for denying salon workers access to information about the chemicals they are exposed to on the job all day, every day,” said Janet Nudelman, Director of Program and Policy for Breast Cancer Prevention Partners.  “AB2775 will provide a new high bar for salon product ingredient disclosure – and worker right to know – for California and serve as the de-facto law of the land,” Nudelman said. “That’s a win-win for salon worker health and for the health and safety of their customers too.”

“As a company dedicated to safety and transparency, Beautycounter knows that ingredient disclosure empowers consumers to choose safer alternatives,” said Gregg Renfrew, Founder and CEO of Beautycounter. “We celebrate the passage of the California safer salon bill and applaud Governor Brown for recognizing the importance of protecting workers and consumers.”

In California, the beauty salon industry represents a significant small business sector. According to the State Board of Barbering and Cosmetology (BBC), there are almost 53,000 businesses licensed by the BBC to provide nail, hair, barber, and other beauty services. There are over 129,000 licensed manicurists in the state; over 312,000 cosmetologists are licensed to provide nail and hair services.

"This bill is of importance because it helps us, as salon workers, stay healthy, and helps ensure our clients’ safety and health by having full knowledge of the possible toxins and chemicals in the products we use,” said Safiyyah Edley, hair salon owner and natural hair stylist in California.

Last month, professional nail and salon workers from across California gathered in Sacramento to lobby for AB 2775, safer products, ingredient disclosure and their right to know.

“I am thrilled that AB 2775 was signed by Governor Brown. I have experienced watery eyes, skin rashes, trouble breathing, and headaches while at work in a nail salon. I’m glad that ingredients will be listed on professional cosmetic labels. This will help me and other salon professionals work in ways that are healthier,” said Sarah Underhill, a nail salon worker from Paramount, CA. “AB 2775 will also help me provide ingredient information to customers who are more and more asking to know what are in the products being used at nail and hair salons.”

Salon workers are available for interview.

ABOUT

Women’s Voices for the Earth is a national environmental health organization that works to amplify women’s voices to eliminate toxic chemicals that harm our health and communities. womensvoices.org

California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative, founded by Asian Health Services in Oakland Chinatown, is a coalition of community-based organizations, researchers, advocates, academic institutions, and nail salon community members whose mission is to improve the health, safety and rights of the nail and beauty care workforce and to achieve a healthier, more sustainable, and just industry.  cahealthynailsalons.org

Black Women for Wellness is a women-centered, multi-generational organization focused on building healthy communities and committed to the health and wellness of Black women and girls through education, empowerment and advocacy. bwwla.org

Breast Cancer Prevention Partners (formerly Breast Cancer Fund) is a science-based advocacy organization that works to prevent breast cancer by eliminating exposure to toxic chemicals and radiation. www.bcpp.org

Media Contacts:

[1] Quach, Thu, et al, Adverse birth outcomes and maternal complications in licensed cosmetologists and manicurists in California, Int Arch Occup Environ Health  (December 2014)

[2] Beauty and it’s Beast,  https://www.womensvoices.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Beauty-and-Its-Beast.pdf

[3] “Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program Turning Cancer Data into Discovery.” Cancer of the Breast. National Cancer Institute, 2012.