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Background: Current New Jersey occupational licensing laws force hair braiders to spend thousands of dollars on arbitrary requirements to open for business. Many of the women affected by these requirements are West African immigrants who began braiding hair at a young age as part of their culture. Paying the money to go to cosmetology school and taking the time off work to do so is not a realistic option.
Since 2016, Americans for Prosperity – New Jersey has been fighting on behalf of these hair braiders, alongside the Institute for Justice. As a result of its efforts, the legislature is expected to vote soon on legislation (S-2510/A-3754) that would exempt hair braiders from onerous licensing.
· Braiders in New Jersey serve minority communities who can’t get this service at traditional salons.
· New Jersey licensing regulations require all hairstylists to take 1,200 hours of cosmetology school, which can cost up to $20,000.
· Cosmetology school is generally centered around European trends. This means hair braiding is often not covered, but subjects including nail and skin care are.
· Hair braiding does not involve the use of dyes or chemicals.
· Hair braiders operating without a license in New Jersey have been fined as much as $10,000.
· This is a bipartisan issue in states across the country.
· Twenty-three other states have already exempt hair braiders from licensing requirements.
· New Jersey’s hair braiders have been fighting for exemption from licensing laws for more than 17 years.
· As part of its grassroots campaign, AFP-NJ is asking activists to email their lawmakers, asking them to pass S-2510/A-3754. View the letter here.
· State Director Erica Jedynak worked with Sen. Declan O’Scanlon when he was an assemblyman in 2016 to introduce a bill to exempt hair braiders from burdensome licensure. When the bill didn’t move, she approached the offices of the senate and assembly democrats and brought in a small group of hair braiders to share their heartbreaking personal stories.
· Activists organized a community hall meeting on April 19 at the New African Stand in Newark. There, bill sponsor Assemblywoman Angela McKnight addressed the crowd and gained national attention.
· AFP-NJ, IJ, and dedicated activists organized more than 60 hair braiders attend committee hearings.
· AFP-NJ has successfully fought back burdensome, rent-seeking licensure for lactation consultants and pool maintenance workers. It has also worked with sponsors to introduce legislation to eliminate licensing barriers for interior decorators and milk samplers.
Erica Jedynak, AFP-NJ state director, in May 2018 ahead of committee hearings for S-2510/A-3754:
“Thursday’s hearings on the NJ Hair Braiding Freedom bills are more than two years in the making, along with the Institute of Justice, and hundreds of professional hair braiders who have been organizing across the state. It’s incredibly rewarding to empower local leaders and help others have a voice they might not otherwise have.”
“AFP-NJ is committed to advancing a vision for a free and open society, including reducing barriers to opportunity so that everyone – from all walks of life – can live their version of the American Dream. Current law dictates that hair braiders must obtain a cosmetology license – costing up to $20k in tuition – even through African hair braiding is not taught under traditional cosmetology curriculum.
“The result is that the State of NJ is fining women without a license up to $10k and shutting down their shops in inner-cities. Many of these women are single mothers or the only breadwinners in the home, and are unable to put food on the table, and unwilling to go on welfare. ”
· “Bipartisan Work in New Jersey Breaking Barriers for Hair-braiders” — The Seminar Network
· VIDEO: Hair Braiding Law in New Jersey — NJSpotlightTV
· VIDEO: NJ Hair Braiding Freedom Coalition’s Lobby Day – Americans for Prosperity
· VIDEO: Hair Braiders in New Jersey Are at Constant Risk of Fines and Job Loss – Vice News
· Senate Bill 2510 of the New Jersey Legislature
· Assembly Bill 3754 of the New Jersey Legislature
Contact: For further information or an interview, please contact Regional Communications Manager Anna McEntee at AMcEntee@afphq.org.
About: Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is a nationwide organization of citizen-leaders committed to advancing every individual’s right to economic freedom and opportunity. AFP believes reducing the size and intrusiveness of government is the best way to promote individual productivity and prosperity for all Americans. For more information, visit www.americansforprosperity.org.