The New Jersey state chapter of Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is helping West African immigrants lobby the New Jersey legislature to change cosmetology requirements.
West African immigrants, usually women, operate hair-braiding businesses that are essentially illegal, since state regulations require these workers to get a license, WNYC reported Monday. That license is acquired from cosmetology school, which is often expensive, and degrees can cost up to $20,000.
These hair braiders have been lobbying Trenton for two years to pass a bill that would exempt the cosmetology school credentials from the licensing requirement. They received guidance from AFP in order to do so.
“Those guys came and said, ‘We are going to work you through this,'” said Anita Yeboah, a braider who works at J&C African Braids in Trenton, to WNYC. “All we can say to them is, God bless them for their time, for all they are doing.”
Since hair braiders often work under the table, customers sometimes skip out on their bills and threaten to tell the state the braiders lack a license if they try to complain or call the police. This then causes some braiders in Newark to hire gang members for protection, who go out and collect money owed to them.
Erica Jedynak, the state director for AFP, told WNYC that helping these hair braiders, often the sole breadwinners for their families, was an important part of the group’s efforts to reduce government involvement in business. (RELATED: Trump’s Labor Secretary Targets Occupational Licensing For Reform)
The bill Yeboah and AFP lobbied for would establish a new Hair Braiding Establishment Advisory Committee, which would administer the new standards, such as exempting hair braiding from current regulations. The bill passed unanimously in both the state senate and the state assembly and awaits the governor’s signature.
The bill was sponsored by Democratic Assemblywomen Angela McKnight and Shanique Speight, who noted the vast majority of hair braiders are black women.
“Hair braiders are predominantly African-American and African immigrant women. This is a skill that is often learned at an early age and passed down from one generation to the next,” McKnight said to The Root. “Asking hair braiders to spend time and money on training that doesn’t relate to their craft so they can do it professionally is unnecessarily burdensome and only helps to keep talented people out of work.”
Opponents to the licensing reform bill contend that since the braiders work with hair, they should still be regulated the same, despite the fact that African hair braiders don’t use chemicals and current certification classes don’t cover hair braiding.
Jedynak pointed out that the bill had significant bipartisan support.
“In a context of just New Jersey bickering, and even some of the national discourse that is unfortunate, you have both sides coming together,” she said to WNYC.
This is not the first time conservatives have worked to change licensing requirements. AFP has been working for years to undo occupational licensing requirements, while Arizona’s governor, Doug Ducey, has championed occupational licensing reform since he became governor in 2015.
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