A year ago, New York nail salons closed. What happened to the workers? – Report
In the United States in early 2020, the looming threat of the pandemic still seemed new and uncertain. A lack of understanding and a lack of guidance at the state or federal level on how best to fight the virus meant millions of people were still going to work every day for weeks after the discovery of COVID-19 – and that even after some industries locked out or moved away, millions of workers were still forced to continue doing so for the duration of the pandemic. In the spring and summer of 2020, salons across the country changed their operating procedures or closed completely to accommodate mandates in their region.
By March 20, the order had fallen for countless small businesses in four states – New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania – to go out of business. Among them were the more than 4,000 nail salons in New York City, the vast majority of which are occupied by immigrant women of color. During this difficult interim period, Maria Lopez *, a 30-year-old Ecuadorian woman who now lives in Queens, had her brush with COVID-19. “At the end of February 2020, I fell ill at the nail salon where I worked”, she says Seduce. Meanwhile, one of the clients she saw included a doctor who worked at a busy hospital in the tri-state area. While COVID-19 typically takes 2 to 14 days for symptoms to manifest, she says Seduce that she started noticing her own symptoms later that day.
His boss was insensitive to his plight; According to Lopez, his employer did not provide him and other workers with PPE and charged them $ 15 a pop for protective visors. âIt didn’t matter to her,â she said. âWe had to buy our own masks, gloves and everythingâ¦ and we were told that we didn’t have to wear them when there were no clients.
After testing positive for COVID-19, Lopez quit his job at the salon (which soon closed during the pandemic lockdown anyway) and began working at a friend’s product delivery business for make ends meet. As many nail salons closed during the pandemic, there were few options available to newly unemployed nail salon workers, more 80 percent of which are excluded from federal aid like unemployment insurance or stimulus checks because of their immigration status, according to a March report from the New York Nail Salon Workers Association (NYNSWA). In April, a year after the decision to close the salons, New York state lawmakers would approve the $ 2.1 billion. Excluded workers’ funds, an emergency measure to help around 300,000 immigrant workers and other workers with non-traditional jobs that had been excluded from government assistance programs, but there was no such thing on the books when the salons first closed, and the workers still had bills to pay.
After her workplace closed, Mariwvey Ramirez, a single mother and 20-year veteran of the nail salon industry from Mexico, tried her hand at street selling. She sold fruit on the sidewalk for months until her living room rented her out – at reduced hours. “Other nail technicians went into cleaning or building,” she says. Seduce in Spanish via a translator. âWe were hardly earning anything. It’s not a real job, everything was closed for March, April, Juneâ¦ In my building, we went on a rent strike, which we continue to this day.
Lopez and Ramirez were neither the first nor the last nail salon workers to be affected by the pandemic. Their whole industry has been decimated, and a recent report of NYNSWA further highlights the heavy human toll the pandemic has taken on the nail salon worker community. Posted on March 22, 2021, the report found that, in a February 2021 survey of 645 nail salon workers, 29% said they tested positive for COVID, with an additional 9% said they thought they had contracted the virus in some places but could not pass a test at the time of their illness. Additionally, despite the nature of their in-person work, nail salon workers have had no early access to the vaccine, and many of them live in the same neighborhoods where the virus raged the hardest. Ramirez, a NYNSWA member, said she knew at least two colleagues who had contracted the virus; one of them died, leaving behind four children.
An emergency for all
âThis year has been incredibly difficult for everyone, [and] by discussing with our members it becomes so clear how the already existing inequalities based on class, race, gender and immigration status have greatly increased “, Luis Gomez, director of the organization of the New Regional Joint Committee York-New Jersey, Workers United, The International Union of Service Employees (SEIU), the headquarters of the NYNSWA union, tells Seduce. âOur members are largely undocumented; 80% were not eligible for any federal aid. Their livelihoods were cut off overnight. They lined up at the food bank, using what little savings they had to buy. bulk of rice and dry beans, asking the church for help buying needed medicine and going on a rent strike out of sheer necessity. “