End of Year Report #2

This year is a special year for us and especially for our nail salon organizing and our worker leaders. Five years ago in 2015, the organizing we began a decade earlier saw a momentous victory, resulting in historical legislation and regulations advancing the rights of nail salon workers in New York. 

Five years later, and fifteen years after we began investigating the conditions for workers at nail salons, we are here, stronger than ever, and more ready than ever to continue, grow and deepen the movement for just and healthy nail salons. 

On February 25th, we traveled to Albany with worker member leaders to celebrate the launch and lobby for the Nail Salon Accountability Act, a bill introduced with Assemblymember Catalina Cruz and Senator Diane Savino. Despite our wins in 2015, our workers still experience high levels of wage theft and health and safety issues at the workplace. 

This bill seeks to reform the current business licensing process to hold bad actors accountable, shift the competitive advantage to salons that are complying with the law, and raise standards industry-wide. We will be pushing for this bill this legislative session, and hope to deliver good news later this year!

Today, we are building momentum for 2020 working off of our amazing accomplishments in 2019. 

If you missed last month’s newsletter about Adhikaar’s domestic worker campaign, click here to read all about our 2019 accomplishments and what’s in store for 2020.

Launching our First Workers’ Association

In August of 2019, we launched the out pilot dues-paying Nail Salon Workers Association. Adhikaar began actively engaging leaders in 2017 in an intensive collaborative process to create a vision and plan for the Workers Association. The Association which is a part of Adhikaar has 17 Steering Committee who meet regularly to discuss campaign progress on state and city legislation, membership growth, and leadership and workforce development ideas. 

Winning One Fair Wage

Won a huge victory for nail salon workers on December 31, 2019, finally eliminating the sub-minimum tipped wage for miscellaneous workers! This win is the fruit of our labor from a busy 2018 campaigning for One Fair Wage, and wages will increase to $15 an hour by the end of this year (tips are extra). We are so proud of the dozens of nail salon technician member leaders who testified in front of the NY State Department of Labor, those leaders who shared their stories with media, with one another, and those members who came out to support and mobilize for the campaign. This is their win.

National Movement Building

In step with our national partner, the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative, and state partner, Workers United, we organized a two-day worker exchange bringing together 34 Nepali-speaking, Latina and Vietnamese nail salon workers from California and New York at Barnard College in March. We then convened a day-long session with the California Collaborative in Las Vegas at the APALA convention, bringing together six groups from five different states organizing nail salon workers and owners in Asian American communities. Guided by Adhikaar and the Collaborative’s deep histories in nail salon organizing in New York and California, the participating groups committed to collectively build a national vision and strategy in nail salon organizing while supporting one another state-by-state. 

Member Workforce Development

In 2019, our organizers supported 245 workers with 1-on-1 licensing support and 65 members completed the rigorous NYCOSH 26 Hour Licensing Course. A group of member leaders volunteered to guide their peers as part of the on-the-job training (for new entries into the workforce), and we conducted health & safety training to more than 90 members to supplement their workforce skills. In August of last year as part of our worker’s association launch, we also celebrated a graduation ceremony for 62 members. 

Expanding into Brooklyn

As our outreach expands and Nepali-speaking workers grow into new Boroughs, we follow. This year we hosted membership meetings. From meetings, new needs emerged for limited literacy workers. In partnership with NYCOSH and the workers in Brooklyn, we conducted a survey of 59 workers in Brooklyn and found that although many were incredibly experienced and had worked for 15 to 20 years in salons, limited literacy meant that most were unlicensed. We presented this survey to the Governor’s office and as a result of our advocacy with NYCOSH and Workers United for limited literacy workers, the state is piloting an oral option for the state license exam.

We also began to conduct nail salon-specific English for Empowerment classes in Brooklyn geared towards those who don’t read or write in any language and work in nail salons. These sessions are facilitated by worker leaders from our Workers Association. This year we will continue to grow membership and leadership in Brooklyn, as well as launch a low literacy version of the 26-hour licensing course. 

Training Members to Train Peers

As a part of leadership development work, we trained member leaders to co-facilitate or facilitate programs and training on their own. In 2019, we trained one leader to conduct health & safety training, two leaders facilitating English for Empowerment classes, and three leaders facilitating the 26-hour course with NYCOSH.

Arts & Activism – More than A Manicure

We worked with writer and activist Meera Nair on a storytelling project “More than a Manicure” to elevate the unheard experiences of Nepali-speaking nail technicians and to foster urgent dialogue between workers and consumers. Five members workshopped their stories and performed them as part of a performance art piece in Brooklyn, for government staffers, funders and supporters. The event was held at a salon owned by TPS member Ramba Regmi, who’s also shared her story on our TPS campaign. At the event, we also launched our consumer survey, which will build into a larger consumer awareness campaign later this year.

We celebrate the amazing accomplishments of our membership, member leaders and staff – but so much remains to be done, and we have an exciting year ahead of us.

Support our work moving into 2020 by donating to Adhikaar to help us sustain and grow our work.

Step up your game and become a monthly donor for $25 a month for the next year and get our new Adhikaar sweatshirt.