NYC Nail Salon Owners Reinstated Protests Over Last Year’s New York Times Article

More than a year after The New York Times published an expose about the “dark side” of getting a mani/pedi, nail salon owners are protesting outside of the newspaper’s offices in midtown Manhattan, saying the article is still hurting their businesses. In May 2015, Sarah Maslin Nir wrote a two-part article about nail salons in New York City, detailing many issues concerning how staff at salons gets paid, the amount of insane hours they work, how they don’t get to keep the cash you leave, and just generally bad labor conditions.

The article was a hit and did just what journalism is supposed to do: change the world. Shortly after its publication, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo put together a task force for the whole state and set up new regulations for salons. Since then, a poster in multiple languages has to be in plain sight at salons and regular, surprise inspections can result in fines, which is exactly why nail salon owners are protesting; they say the regulations and fines are hurting business and the original article only showed one side of the business. Not all nail salons are created equal. But in August 2015, after inspecting 182 salons, Cuomo’s task force found that 43 percent didn’t not pay minimum wage and three out of five salons didn’t even have payroll records. In May 2016, Cuomo ordered 143 of those salons to pay around $2 million in backpay to their employees.

After protesting once in the fall of 2105, another group of protestors showed up in front of the newspaper’s office this week. On Tuesday, the Korean Parents Association of Greater New York seemed to be leading the charge. According to Politico, fliers read, “The New York Times articles told only one side of the nail salon story. Please listen to ‘our side’ of the story and help keep us in business.” They also said the newspaper and the piece was full of lies that were hurting their businesses and their families.

Nir told Politico she was fine with the protest. “As a journalist, First Amendment rights are the credo we live and die by. I respect deeply their right to voice their opinions,” she said. If the owners keep coming out to fight for their right to be heard, there might be a reason for Cuomo’s task force to check in or even Nir to follow up. But someone should have told them that early August is not a great time to protest in front of a media office, as one Times employee joked on Twitter. Much like trying to get a quick Saturday morning pedicure in Queens, it’s sort of a lost cause.