Health and Safety, New York

NYS Combats Worker Exploitation

July 20, 2015
By Jerry Cohen, LaborPress Albany Bureau

Andrew M. Cuomo

Albany, NY – Building on the Governor’s  initiative to protect workers in the nail salon industry, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has announced the formation of a statewide Task Force to root out worker exploitation in multiple industries in New York State.

Working in partnership with state agencies and an advisory committee, the Task Force will identify illegal practices in businesses across the state. The group will provide legislative, regulatory and administrative recommendations to the Governor. The Governor made the announcement on Thursday July 16th while in the Bronx signing legislation to protect and support nail salon workers in New York.

“If there is a state that is going to take a stand against worker exploitation, it is New York,” said Governor Cuomo. “New York offers a promise that our arms and hearts are open to those who come here to work and build a better future for themselves – and we will not tolerate worker exploitation, period. It’s not a Democratic or a Republican issue – it’s what we believe, and together we’re going to make this a reality.”

This nail salon legislation aims at protecting the employees of these shops  from exploitation. It requires the registration of a new class of workers who are going to be called nail specialty trainees. Providing employees the proper training and protecting them from unsafe working conditions is critical to an industry that provides tens of thousands of jobs to female immigrant workers.

“The Assembly Majority has a long history of defending the rights of workers in every industry. In 2010 I was proud to have led the fight to give workers across this state a voice with the enactment of the Wage Theft Prevention Act. I am proud that we take that victory a step further and empower nail salon workers with the support, the oversight, and the knowledge they need to go to work each day in a safe environment and be paid fair wages for the labor they provide. Indeed, worker exploitation is pervasive problem across many industries,”
said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.

The legislation signed by the Governor to protect nail salon workers was one of the Governor’s top priorities this legislative session. The law gives the Department of State the authority to shut down a business that is not following state regulations. The agency can cease unlicensed or uninsured activities and impose financial penalties at higher levels than was previously permitted in response to violations. Unlicensed nail practitioners now need to register with the state as trainees while they study for their licensing exam. The legislation implements new regulations for nail salons to address new bond and insurance requirements, improved personal protective equipment and required postings of any cease and desist notices that may be issued to a business found to be operating without a license.

“For generations, the plight of abused workers went unnoticed – but no longer. Alongside Governor Cuomo and his new task force, we are giving a voice to those exploited workers and taking important steps to regulate industries that have for too long flown under the radar. The creation of this task force gives countless workers hope for a brighter future, without unfair and inhumane business practices,” said Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York President Gary Labarbera.

Working with state agencies the Task Force will meet monthly to recommend regulatory changes needed. Committee members from labor include: Stuart Appelbaum, Hector Figueroa, George Gresham, Gary LaBarbera, and Peter Ward.

“With the signing of this important legislation, New York is leading the way to end the mistreatment of workers in the nail salon industry. Just as important, we’re setting a precedent and taking steps forward through the creation of a Task Force to ensure that all workers are protected from exploitation. We thank the Governor for his leadership as well as the Senate and the Assembly for standing up for workers in the nail salon industry, and look forward to ensuring all workers are afforded the same dignity and respect on the job,” said New York State AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento.

July 20, 2015

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