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Governor Signs New Law to Protect Nail Salon Workers

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law Thursday a bill that gives state officials the authority to shutter unlicensed nail salons and those not following the law.

"As the main sponsor of this three-way agreement in the Assembly, we worked non-stop for weeks to strike a fair balance in protecting workers, encouraging good operators, and rooting out bad owners,” said State Assemblyman Ron Kim, a Korean American whose Queens district includes Flushing, home to many Korean- and Chinese-owned nail salons.

The bill, which was delivered to the governor on Tuesday, allows the state to impose higher monetary penalties than previously allowed for violations, while also giving unlicensed nail salon workers the right to register as trainees with the state. This, Cuomo said, allows nail salon employees to continue working while preparing for licensing exams, instead of having to depend on enrolling in expensive education programs.

Will actions to protect nail salon workers start movement? 3:07

The governor also announced Thursday the formation of a statewide task force aimed at combating worker exploitation in 14 industries, including supermarkets, landscaping, and restaurants.

“If there is a state that is going to take a stand against worker exploitation, it is New York,” Cuomo said in a statement.

The task force is an expansion of an earlier one the governor established in May in response to allegations reported in a two-part series published by The New York Times that owners of some nail salons in New York City were mistreating their workers.

Related: New York Governor Cuomo Cracks Down on Nail Salons After Abuse Exposed

At the time, Sang-ho Lee, head of the Korean American Nail Salon Association, criticized the Times’ articles, saying the paper examined conditions at only 150 nail salons out of 6,000 in New York City, according to The Korea Times. Between 70 and 80 percent of city nail salons are owned by Korean Americans, the New York Times has reported.

“Most Korean-run businesses are not engaged in such nonsense things as racial discrimination and ethnic caste system,” Lee was quoted as saying in the Korea Times article.

A phone message seeking comment from the Korean American Nail Salon Association was not returned Thursday.

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