Nora Cacho was paid about 50 percent of the price of every manicure or lip wax she did at a Harlem shop that was part of a chain, Envy Nails. She frequently earned about $200 for each 66-hour workweek — about $3 an hour. In sandal season, if she was lucky, she left the shop with slightly more — $300 each week, she said. On snowy days, Ms. Cacho, who is part of a class-action lawsuit against the chain, would return home with nothing.
– from "The Price of Nice Nails" by Sarah Maslin Nir, The New York Times
I finally got to reading this New York Times piece on the exploitation of nail salon workers in super-cheap US salons. It's shocked New York's Govenor Cuomo into action: within days of the article's publication he formed an emergency task force to act immediately to investigate salons and enforce change. And obviously Sarah Maslin Nir's revelations have distressed the nail industry -- in Canada too, where, I'm told, similar conditions do exist.
Almost as disturbing as the story, though, are the New York Times reader comments, which range from blaming the victims for their situation, to judging women for not cutting and painting their own nails, to outrage at the reports of mistreatment, to castigating the writer for skewed reporting, to feeling guilt over not realizing the true cost of a $10 manicure.
I've had a couple of cheap NYC manis myself -- literally two, and years ago, not that that absolves me of a lack of awareness that something might be off. But since getting to know the Tips Nail Bar team and how they work, I've wondered how any salon could charge as little as $15 or $20 for a mani/pedi combo. I did not quite imagine the sweatshop conditions some are likening to human trafficking.
Update: more on the measures NY State Governor Cuomo is expected to introduce to help exploited manicurists; includes forcing all nail salons to have insurance or a bond that ensures their staff gets paid whatever happens.
Have you read "The Price of Nice Nails"? What do you think?