A new report from the UCLA Labor Center and the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative found that 78 percent of nail salon employees — excluding the self-employed — are low-wage workers, which is more than double the national rate of 33 percent for all industries, it was announced Tuesday.
This report is the first to examine the nail salon industry nationwide with a focus on labor conditions, according to UCLA.
“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,” Sharma said.
According to the report, 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 of employees is also a key concern.
“Thirty percent of nail salon workers are self-employed, which is triple the national average,” said Saba Waheed, research director at the UCLA Labor Center.
“There is a worry that a number of workers are being misclassified as independent contractors as a way around labor laws and protections,” Waheed said.
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 percent having fewer than five employees. The labor force is predominantly Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese, Nepali, Tibetan, and Latin, with 81 percent women and 79 percent foreign-born.
“There is a lack of understanding of labor laws on the part of both employers and employees,” said Lisa Fu, director at the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative.
“Salon owners have a responsibility to treat workers well and follow labor laws,” Fu said. “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.”
The nail salon industry is expected to grow at almost twice the rate of other U.S. industries in the next decade, and the report’s authors included these recommendations for “stakeholders” in the industry:
— 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.
To download the full report, go to bit.ly/Nail_Files.