By Christina Hager, WBZ-TVBy Christina Hager

BOSTON (CBS) – So you found a cheap manicure? This week, a New York Times investigation showed nail technicians working with toxic chemicals for desperately low pay. One University of Massachusetts Boston researcher says it’s as bad in New England.

“Where we sit right now, we could in the next ten minutes, walk to ten nail salons. That means it’s a very competitive business, overloaded, and that means someone among those ten nail salons is not being treated fairly and not receiving the wages that they should be receiving,” said Dr. Susan Moir.

Boston recently strengthened health regulations for nail salons, but the minimum wage for tipped workers is still just $3.00 per hour. There are 196 nail salons in the city, and just six inspectors to check up on them. They’re split between these, tanning salons, auto shops, and other businesses.

There are some companies pledging to upgrade these low standards. The chain MiniLuxe provides employees with things unheard of in traditional nail shops.

“We offer health insurance, dental insurance, 401k,” said Vivian Ong, who’s a nail technician training manager. Ong’s single mother worked 60 hours a week doing nails for about $5.00 Now that Ong is second generation in the nail industry, she dreams of much better. “I’m surprised that it’s not already an industry standard. I really am. I cannot believe how many salons don’t sterilize their tools, or don’t care about the products that they use.”

Labor activists say spots like MiniLuxe are far from the norm, and since they cost more to operate, it would take a major overhaul of laws to force such improvements.

Christina Hager

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