The Susan Harwood Training Grant Program grants are awarded to provide training and education programs on workplace safety and health hazards. Communities that are served and benefit from the training provided under the program include immigrant workers. We asked Blanca Vidal, an instructor at the NY Nail Salon Workers Training School, and Charlene Obernauer, the Executive Director of NYCOSH, to share more about how this grant program has helped keep immigrant workers informed and safe. The NY Nail Salon Workers Training School is an initiative of the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, known as NYCOSH.
Give us your backstory: Tell us about your career path and how you became involved with the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, known as NYCOSH.
Blanca: I started 14 years ago because I got the opportunity to get a job in a nail salon. The opportunity came to me. We didn’t know anything about our rights, and they only paid $25 each day. All immigrants who worked there would work 12 hours a day, so we weren’t paid the minimum wage.
From there, I heard about nail salon workers fighting for their rights and I became a member of the New York Nail Salon Workers’ Association. Eventually, I became a trainer with the school because of my experience as a worker.
Can you share more about the mission of NYCOSH and the work it does in the community?
Charlene: NYCOSH is a safety and health organization whose mission is to defend and extend the rights of each worker. In other words, we use education, training and advocacy to support workers as they advocate for safer, better jobs. Our nail salon school is just one aspect of our work; we are not industry specific, but rather support workers’ safety and health as a whole.
Tell us more about your experience as an instructor at the NY Nail Salon Workers Training School. What is the most fulfilling part of your job?
Blanca: My experience is very good; I’m very thankful that people gave me the opportunity to work with workers because I’m a nail salon worker, too. I know what happens with each worker in their salons and I can help them to know their rights and learn about health and safety.
Why is offering courses like this important? How have these courses helped you and others in your industry?
Blanca: Nail salon workers now know their rights and they know how to tell their owners and workers that they need to be paid per hour, not per day!
What would you say to other organizations thinking about applying for a Susan Harwood Training Grant so they can offer similar courses?
Charlene: Apply for programs that train and empower workers. We need to do both if we are going to be successful.
Editor’s note: Applications for the Susan Harwood Training Grant must be submitted to Grants.gov by Aug. 23, 2021. More than $11 million is available in occupational safety and health training grants for non-profits for training on workplace hazards.
Blanca Vidal is an instructor at the NY Nail Salon Workers Training School, an initiative of NYCOSH.
Charlene Obernauer is the Executive Director of NYCOSH.