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The Scandal of Nail Salons

May 13, 2015
Plain English Version


Migrants and workers are treated cruelly everywhere. They drown trying to escape death in their home countries. They work brutal hours in dangerous workplaces, ranging from Bangladesh to the United States.

Manicurists in America are one example. They are the people who cut and polish fingernails and toenails. Not everyone in the trade is a victim. But many are. They are trucked to work early in the morning. They earn wages below the minimum allowed by law. They work more hours than the law allows. They inhale fumes that can be dangerous to their health and can be hazardous to their pregnancies.

In the United States, it is an industry run mostly by Koreans. It is very profitable to the owners. Korean employees are favored over others.

The number of places doing this business has grown wildly in recent years. It is very popular for women to get their nails done every week. Even men get manicures. The price for services has not gone up. Low prices mean low pay. Tips are a big source of money. However, manicurists do not always get to keep their tips.

Many of the workers are undocumented. It is risky for them to protest their treatment.

The customers are not aware of what is happening. They are greeted by smiles when they come into the nail salons.  They know the people who serve them. They think things are all right.

Some think that the customers can help change things. They can pay more attention to what is going on in the shop. They can stop going to places that are too cheap.

Trades built on the backs of immigrant workers are a long tradition in the United States. They provide entry-level access to better lives for their children. The government should do as much as it can to improve working conditions. However, there is a risk when putting bad bosses out of business. Jobs will be lost. Sometimes people need jobs, even if they are bad jobs.

Source: The New York Times May 7, 2015

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