“The Price of Nice Nails”

Over the past several days, the New York Times did what it can do so brilliantly: it published a deeply detailed, intelligent and disturbing series of articles–essays, really–on the plight of manicurists in the thousands of shops we all see everywhere in New York City.

I’ve written previously about a successful lawsuit in which manicurists were plaintiffs (they sued a salon company for unpaid wages; they were successful in the sense that they won the case and received a judgment, but I believe the owner never paid them in full. He claimed he didn’t have the money).

But this current series is not entirely about underpaid wages, although it’s clear that these women are essentially serfs, and lawsuits have emerged from the medieval muck. It’s a portrait, really, of the poor women who have been exploited by this industry–and by you, who get your manicures without considering the ramifications. You can feel guilty, sure, but wouldn’t you rather alleviate your guilt by doing something about this?

There are four articles I’m linking to. And let us all give a standing ovation to Sarah Maslin Nir, the New York Times reporter who investigated and wrote the primary articles. She must get a Pulitzer and any other prize available for her remarkable work.

The first article:

 Manicurists are routinely underpaid and exploited, and endure ethnic bias and other abuse, The New York Times has found.

Source: The Price of Nice Nails – NYTimes.com

The second article is about the dreadful health risks to these women:

Some ingredients used in nail products have been tied to cancer, miscarriages, lung diseases and other ailments. The industry has long fought regulations.

Source: Perfect Nails, Poisoned Workers – NYTimes.com

I was wondering where OSHA was in this situation. I found out in this paragraph:

“We know that a lot of the chemicals are very dangerous,” said David Michaels, the assistant labor secretary who heads the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which oversees workplace safety. “We don’t need to see the effect in nail salon workers to know that they are dangerous to the workers.”

This third Times report isn’t an article, per se, but is an extremely interesting and valuable discussion among highly informed people about, in effect, the conflict between free market capitalism and government’s role as stated in the preamble to the Constitution, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility [sic], provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare…” [I bolded the above for obvious reasons.]

Should Americans, despite their stagnant wages, pay the true cost of their goods and services, or should they benefit from free markets’ cost reductions?

Source: Should Prices at Nail Salons and Elsewhere Reflect Their True Cost? – Room for Debate – NYTimes.com

(Pay particular attention to the self-defined libertarian’s comment and remember this when you vote.)

And then, the fourth article, demonstrating that journalism, i.e., the Fourth Estate, can move gubernatorial mountains. For this, in particular, we must thank Sarah Maslin Nir and the Times:

Acting in response to a series in The New York Times, the governor said a multiagency task force would investigate possible wage theft and health hazards salon by salon.

Source: Cuomo Orders Emergency Measures to Protect Workers at Nail Salons – NYTimes.com

This entry was posted in Law, suits and order and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.