Did you know there are approximately 27 million people worldwide who are enslaved and exploited? And according to the Polaris Project (one of the leading anti-trafficking ­organizations in the United States), an estimated 18,000 people are trafficked into the United States each year. As someone who wants to believe the U.S. isn’t susceptible to these issues, it’s disheartening to hear that it is, in fact, happening right in our own backyard. Not only that, but as contributing writer and nail technician Michelle Pratt has discovered, it might even be closer to home than I thought.

Sure, human trafficking might not be a subject you expect to see in the pages of NAILS, but it is happening in some nail salons right here in the United States. And thanks to one New York-based salon owner who is shedding light on the sad situation, maybe as an industry we can take a stand and do something about it. Pratt tells the story of human trafficking through Tomilynn Rando’s activism. For more information on what Rando is doing to make a difference, I urge you all to read “Taking a Stand Against Human Trafficking”.

There are two main types of “slaves” when talking about this issue: labor slaves and sex slaves. There is evidence of both types happening in salons.  With the first, salon workers might be physically abused or forced to work long hours with little or no pay. With the second, workers might be told they are being hired to work at a nail salon, when in fact it turns out to be a “massage parlor” where women are forced into prostitution.

Sadly, I can’t help but worry that this will be another polarizing topic in the ongoing debate of Asian versus non-Asian salons in the industry. But instead of having an “us versus them” or laissez faire attitude, I urge everyone to come together on this topic. As Pratt writes, “Techs on both sides can agree on the basics: unlicensed, unsafe, unsanitary salons should not exist — regardless of the race and country of origin of the owner or nail tech.” It’s important that we all form one united voice to stop modern day slavery in our industry. The bottom line is that women are being lured to our country with the promise of jobs, or they’re being forced into labor with the threat of deportation.

Rando is a modern day abolitionist and she urges others in the industry to join her. She says, “Traffickers are exploiting our industry to force women into modern-day slavery. Let’s work together to be their voice and their advocates.” She’s set up a website (www.freemynailtech.com) with a plan to get involved. As hard as it is to read this story without being shocked to learn that something like this is happening in our own industry, I’m proud to see one of our own stepping up and taking a stand to protect the liberties of other nail techs working in the United States — no matter the circumstances. Get involved. Take a stand. Make a difference.

Do you have a cause that you’re passionate about? We’d love to hear your story about what you’re doing to help. E-mail Hannah.Lee@bobit.com.

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