November 30, 2017 Kim Krisberg 0Comment

At the Guardian, Julia Carrie Wong reports on the challenges of protecting nail salon workers from the toxic chemicals often used in the industry, and the progress being made in helping salon owners make the shift to healthier working conditions.

For example, she writes about the success of the California Healthy Nail Collaborative, a grassroots organization that in 2016 received an environmental justice grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Not surprisingly, the conservative Heritage Foundation has singled out the grants as wasteful spending, calling for the elimination of EPA’s entire environmental justice budget. Trump included that elimination in his federal budget proposal. But, fortunately, the nail salon efforts continue to make a difference. Wong reports:

Each time Van Nguyen got pregnant, her doctor advised her either to stop working at the San Francisco nail salon she owns – or have an abortion.

But Nguyen wanted to keep her babies and couldn’t afford to stop working. So she avoided seeing doctors throughout her four pregnancies, despite experiencing significant bleeding during all four, and miscarriages during two.

“It’s not their fault, it’s my fault,” the 46-year-old said through a translator of the doctors whose advice she didn’t want to take. “This is what I chose to do for a living, so I have to live with it.”

Nguyen is one of thousands of Vietnamese immigrants in California, most of them women, who work 12-hour days in storefront salons providing customers with the quintessential “affordable luxury” – manicures and pedicures.

But unlike workers at many nail salons, Nguyen said she no longer experiences the headaches, respiratory problems, reproductive issues and rashes that some research links to the chemicals found in common nail products. The air at New York Salon on San Francisco’s Mission street smells fresh, workers attend to customers’ nails while wearing gloves and face masks, and elephant trunk-esque tubes hang over each manicure table, sucking away noxious vapors.

Read the full story at the Guardian.

In other news:

Los Angeles Times: Maura Dolan reports that California’s highest court has ruled that farmers may have labor contracts imposed on them if negotiations with a union don’t culminate in an agreement, upholding a 2001 law that allows the state to require farmers and unions to reach binding contracts. The ruling comes in reaction to a dispute between United Farm Workers of America and Gerawan Farming Inc. In 2013, the union failed to reach an agreement with Gerawan and asked state officials to intervene. Evenually, Gerawan sued over the union law, claiming it was unconstitutional. In the wake of the ruling, United Farm Workers is calling on Gerawan to pay workers more than $10 million in back wages. Dolan quoted the union’s statement: “Gerawan is exactly the kind of case lawmakers had in mind when they enacted the law because the company has been repeatedly found guilty by the state of California of multiple and serious violations of its workers’ rights, including the right to their union contract.”

The New York Times: Charles Bagli reports that in 1980, Donald Trump hired 200 undocumented Polish workers “who worked in 12-hour shifts, without gloves, hard hats or masks, to demolish the Bonwit Teller building on Fifth Avenue, where the 58-story, golden-hued Trump Tower now stands.” The workers earned as little as $4 an hour, if they got paid at all. Such labor conditions led to years of litigation, with Trump “quietly” agreeing to a settlement in 1998. Just this month, the terms of that settlement were unsealed in response to a motion filed by Time Inc. and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. The documents showed that Trump paid $1.375 million to settle, with $500,000 going to a union benefits fund. Bagli writes: “On the campaign trail and as president, Mr. Trump has made curbing immigration one of his top priorities, seeking to close the borders to people from certain Muslim-majority countries and to deport immigrants who are here illegally. The settlement serves as a reminder that as an employer he relied on illegal immigrants to get a dangerous and dirty job done.”

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Mary Spicuzza reports that following the death of Greg Zyszkiewicz, a city home inspector who was shot and killed on the job earlier this year, Milwaukee city officials are instituting changes to better ensure the safety of public employees. Among the changes, which were based on employee input and recommendations: city employees can request safety vests and official decals for their cars when conducting city business; the city’s Department of Employee Relations purchased and made available personal panic alarms; and local police have offered safety awareness training. In addition, city department officials can now use an incident tracker to document emergencies in the field. Spicuzza writes: “Maria Monteagudo, the city’s Employee Relations director, said 45 incidents have been documented so far — including 17 involving Department of Neighborhood Services employees. She acknowledged that the number seemed high given the relatively small size of that department.”

Huffington Post: Jamie Feldman reports on sexual harassment in the airline industry, as “unwanted advances to groping and forced physical contact, assault and harassment are realities seemingly accepted as commonplace by the flight attendants we spoke with, all of whom attested to various levels of unwanted physical contact during their time on the job.” Feldman writes that an industry culture in which the “customer is always right” makes it very difficult for flight attendants to confront harassment when it happens — plus, there’s no exact protocol for how to handle sexually harassing passengers. Sara Nelson, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, told Feldman: “There is very little training. It’s nonexistent, actually. There is training on how to handle assault and aggressive behavior on a plane, but there is no recognition of sexual assault as a unique crime.”

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