In the U.S. in early 2020, the looming risk of the pandemic nonetheless felt new and unsure. A dearth of understanding and lack of steerage at the state or federal degree on the greatest method to fight the virus meant that thousands and thousands of individuals had been nonetheless clocking in to work every day for weeks after COVID-19 was found — and that even after some industries went on lockdown or went distant, thousands and thousands of staff had been nonetheless compelled to proceed doing so all through the entirety of the pandemic. In the spring and summer time of 2020, salons throughout the nation modified working procedures or closed altogether to accommodate for mandates of their area.
By March 20, the order had come down for numerous small companies in 4 states — New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania — to shut up store. Among them had been New York City’s greater than 4,000 nail salons, the overwhelming majority of that are staffed by immigrant girls of coloration. During that uneasy in-between interval, Maria Lopez*, a 30-year-old native of Ecuador who now lives in Queens, had her brush with COVID-19. “In late February of 2020 I got sick at the nail salon I worked at,” she tells Allure. During this time, certainly one of the shoppers she noticed included a health care provider who was working at a busy hospital in the tri-state space. While COVID-19 sometimes takes 2 to 14 days for signs to manifest, she tells Allure that she started to discover her personal signs later in the day.
Her boss was unmoved by her plight; in accordance to Lopez, her employer didn’t present her or the different staff with PPE and charged them $15 a pop for protecting face visors. “It didn’t matter to her,” she stated. “We had to buy our own masks, gloves, and everything… and we were told we didn’t need to wear them when there weren’t clients.”
After she examined optimistic for COVID-19, Lopez left her job at the salon (which quickly closed throughout the pandemic lockdown anyway) and commenced working at a good friend’s produce supply enterprise to make ends meet. As many nail salons have closed throughout the pandemic there have been few choices accessible to newly unemployed nail salon staff, greater than 80 % of whom are reduce out of federal assist like unemployment insurance coverage or stimulus checks due to their immigration standing, in accordance to a March report from the New York Nail Salon Workers Association (NYNSWA). In April, a yr after the order got here to shut down the salons, New York state lawmakers would approve the $2.1 billion Excluded Workers Fund, an emergency measure to present aid to the estimated 300,000 immigrant staff and different staff with nontraditional jobs who had been excluded from authorities assist applications, however there was nothing like that on the books when the salons first closed, and staff nonetheless had payments to pay.
After her office shut down, Mariwvey Ramirez, a single mom and 20-year veteran of the nail salon business who’s initially from Mexico, tried her hand at avenue merchandising. She bought fruit on the sidewalk for months till her salon employed her again — at decreased hours. “Other nail techs went into cleaning or construction,” she tells Allure in Spanish by way of a translator. “We were practically earning nothing. It’s not a real job, everything was closed for March, April, June… In my building, we went on rent strike, which we are still on to this day.”
Lopez and Ramirez weren’t the first nor the final nail salon staff to be impacted by the pandemic. Their total business has been decimated, and a current report from NYNSWA additional outlines the heavy human toll that the pandemic has taken on the nail salon employee group. Published on March 22, 2021, the report discovered that, in a February 2021 survey of 645 nail salon staff, 29 % stated that they’d examined optimistic for COVID, and an extra 9 % stated that they imagine they’d contracted the virus in some unspecified time in the future however had been unable to get a check at the time of their sickness. In addition, regardless of the in-person nature of their job, nail salon staff weren’t given any form of early entry to the vaccine, and plenty of of them dwell in the very neighborhoods the place the virus raged hardest. Ramirez, an NYNSWA member, stated she knew of no less than two coworkers who had contracted the virus; certainly one of them died, abandoning 4 kids.
An Emergency for Everyone
“This year has been incredibly challenging for everyone, [and] in speaking with our members it just becomes so clear how already existing inequalities based on class, race, gender, and immigration status have gotten much deeper,” Luis Gomez, Organizing Director of the New York-New Jersey Regional Joint Board, Workers United, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the union residence of the NYNSWA, tells Allure. “Our membership is largely undocumented; 80 percent were not eligible for any kind of federal assistance. They had their livelihood cut off from one day to the next. They were getting in line at the food bank, using what little savings they had to buy rice and dried beans in bulk, asking the church for assistance to buy necessary medicines and going on rent strike out of sheer necessity.”