A New York Times exposé has revealed the horrifying treatment of manicurists in nail salons across New York City and its surrounding suburbs. Of the many shocking revelations, one of the most arresting stats in the piece points out that only a quarter of workers interviewed said they earned the equivalent of New York's minimum wage, and some reported earning as little as $1.50 an hour.
The illegally low pay often forces workers into dire living conditions, too — one salon worker, for instance, lived in a one-bedroom apartment with five other people, three of whom were strangers. Another manicurist told the Times she spent her first three months without wages at a new salon, living only on tips until her supervisor thought she was "skillful enough to merit a wage."
In addition to being denied wages and being forced to provide their own tools, many of the 150 salon owners and workers interviewed encountered rampant racism on the job. Korean nail salon workers, for instance, earned almost twice that of their peers, the Times discovered.
Other workers reported being "kicked as they sat on pedicure stools" and being charged to drink their salon's water over the course of the day. But perhaps the worst example of abuse is this anecdote:
Qing Lin, 47, a manicurist who has worked on the Upper East Side for the last 10 years, still gets emotional when recounting the time a splash of nail polish remover marred a customer’s patent Prada sandals. When the woman demanded compensation, the $270 her boss pressed into the woman’s hand came out of the manicurist’s pay. Ms. Lin was asked not to return.