San Francisco’s Nail Salons Go Green

Amie Newman

San Francisco has taken an important step to "green" the city's nail salons and improving the health and working conditions salon workers.

San Francisco is the first in the country to pass an ordinance regulating the use of toxic chemicals in nail polishes, used in nails salons. It’s good news for customers, of course. But it’s better news for the 1800 women who work many hours in the 200 salons, many of whom are of Vietnamese descent, notes the Ms. Foundation’s blog Igniting Change. 

The New York Times reports:

“Under the ordinance, the city will publicly identify establishments that use polishes (including top and base coats) free of the chemicals toluene, dibutyl phthalate (DBP) and formaldehyde — the so-called toxic trio. The three are on the hit list of the California Safe Cosmetics Act as causing cancer or birth defects.”

Of the ordinance, the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative (a key player in fighting for healthier working conditions for salon workers across the state) says:

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

“Many workers experience negative health impacts due to the chemicals in nail products they work with on a daily basis. A goal of the ordinance is to reduce negative reproductive and other health impacts of long-term exposure to toxic chemicals for nail salon workers.”

The collaborative is comprised of a diverse group of women’s health and rights organization, many of whom focus on Asian women’s health including Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, Asian Immigrant Workers Advocates. Other groups include Planned Parenthood, Women’s Voice for the Earth, and the Center for Environmental Health.

Vietnamese nail salon workers make up anywhere from 60 to 80 percent of all of those who work in nail salons around the country, reports the New York Times – and many of those are young, immigrant women. They are women who spend long days in small, poorly ventilated spaces hunched over nail polishes and solvents known or suspected to cause cancers.

It’s why the CHNSC is also pushing support for the Federal Safe Cosmetics Act – to protect workers  around the country from the unsafe chemicals found in nail polishes and other tools of the trade.

To learn more, you can view the Brave New Foundation film on the issue:

News Politics

San Francisco Now Has Nation’s Most Generous Family Leave Policy

Nicole Knight Shine

The sweeping benefit is the first of its kind in the country, which remains the only industrialized nation not to guarantee paid parental leave to all workers.

San Francisco on Tuesday became the first place in the country to require that employers provide six weeks of fully paid leave to new parents.

The ordinance, approved by the Board of Supervisors, covers employees in San Francisco county and city who wish to take time off to care for a newborn baby, newly adopted child, new foster child, or to attend to an ill family member.

The law, which goes into effect next year, intially applies to employers with 50 or more workers. Beginnining July 1, 2017, it extends to employers with 20 or more employees.

The sweeping benefit is the first of its kind in the country, which remains the only industrialized nation not to guarantee paid parental leave to all workers. California offers six weeks of family leave at 55 percent of pay—one of three states to enact paid leave policies, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

New York’s governor this week signed a $15 minimum wage law that includes a new provision for 12 weeks of paid parental leave—a measure that offers longer coverage, but fewer financial benefits than San Francisco’s. New York’s policy phases in paid parental leave beginning in 2018, and offers workers a maximum of 67 percent of their average weekly wage when fully implemented in 2021.

“The vast majority of workers in this country have little or no access to paid parental leave, and that needs to change,” San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener, who sponsored the measure, said at a news conference before the vote, as the Associated Press reported.

Under San Francisco’s ordinance, employers will now make up the difference between what the state covers (55 percent) and what the law now mandates.

San Francisco is a leader in pro-worker measures, requiring paid sick leave and passing a law to lift the minimum wage to $15 an hour by July 2018. California’s governor on Monday signed an unprecedented statewide $15-per-hour minimum wage bill that is expected to raise the wages of more than six million people who work in the state by 2023.

Small business owners in San Francisco have complained that the paid leave ordinance is the latest in a string of mandates that burden their companies, according to the Associated Press. Business groups like the Bay Area Council, the members of which include Google and Facebook, voiced support for paid parental leave.

Documents leaked to the Center for Media and Democracy this week show that most business leaders support parental leave policies and boosting the minimum wage, despite fierce opposition to those measures from chambers of commerce.

“Paid parental leave increases the probability that employees will return to work, be more productive, and earn higher wages,” Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of the Bay Area Council, told the Associated Press. “That is good for business and for families.”

California’s paid leave program is financed through the state insurance program. The California Employment Development Department approved roughly 1.8 million paid family leave claims totaling $4.6 billion in 2014. About nine out of ten claimants took leave to bond with a new child.

A 2014 report by the California Senate Office of Research indicates that claims filed by highly paid employees outnumbered claims filed by workers who earn less, suggesting that the state’s low-wage workers can’t afford to take time off for their families.

Vicki Shabo, vice president of the National Partnership for Women and Families, said the San Francisco measure could help boost momentum at the national level, where federal law provides for 12 weeks of unpaid leave.

“It’s great to see local leaders stepping up,” Shabo told the Guardian, noting that California’s first-of-its-kind law served as a model for other states. “There’s a growing consensus that the nation must do something to address this.”

News Law and Policy

Federal Appeals Court Upholds Seattle’s Minimum Wage Hike

Jessica Mason Pieklo

Conservative business interests will likely appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Efforts by big business interests to block implementation of Seattle’s minimum wage increase took a step back Friday as a federal appeals court ruled the city’s wage law is constitutional.

The ruling came from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in a lawsuit filed by a corporate front group known as the International Franchise Association Inc. and a group of Seattle franchisees represented by Paul Clement, a conservative Supreme Court litigator and attorney behind legal challenges to the Voting Rights Act and the Affordable Care Act.

Seattle’s law went into effect in April and requires “large employers,” classified as those with more than 500 employees, to raise their minimum wage to $15 an hour over the next three years. Smaller businesses have until 2021 to phase in the wage increase.

Clement sued the city in 2014 on behalf of conservative business interests to bar parts of the city’s new $15 minimum wage law from taking effect. Clement raised several constitutional challenges to the law, arguing that classifying franchisees like Papa John’s and McDonald’s as “large employers,” which forced them to implement the wage hikes more quickly than smaller businesses, violated the state and federal constitutions and federal statutes.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

U.S. Federal District Judge Richard Jones disagreed and denied Clement’s request for a preliminary injunction blocking implementation of the law. Friday’s decision by the Ninth Circuit affirms Jones’ ruling.

Writing for the court, Circuit Judge Michael Daly Hawkins held that the plaintiffs failed to “raise serious questions going to the merits on any of its claims, nor did it show that an injunction is in the public interest.”

Clement had argued on behalf of his clients that classifying franchisees as large employers violated the dormant Commerce Clause’s prohibition on laws designed to burden out-of-state business, an argument similar to ones made in the challenge to the individual mandate and Medicaid expansion provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

Clement argued the ordinance also violated the First Amendment since franchisees operate under prescribed marketing plans and are associated with trademarks or other protected commercial symbols, which the ordinance unconstitutionally restricts.

The Ninth Circuit rejected the constitutional arguments outright, finding that Clement had failed to show how his clients would be “excluded from the market, earn less revenue or profit, lose customers, or close or reduce stores.” Seattle’s wage ordinance, the court wrote, was “plainly an economic regulation that does not target speech or expressive conduct,” despite Clement’s claims.

“The ordinance does not classify employers based on the location of their headquarters, the location of their workers, or the extent to which they participate in interstate commerce,” Hawkins wrote. “Rather, it classifies based on the number of employees (a facially-neutral classification) and the business model (a facially-neutral classification).”

Robert Cresanti, executive vice president of government relations and public policy for the International Franchise Association, called the Ninth Circuit’s decision a “disappointment” and suggested the organization plans to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

If upheld, the decision could clear the way for more cities to raise the minimum wage.