Licensing Threats: Myra Irizarry on the "I Am" Campaign
As state governments across the country initiate deregulation legislation that would remove licensing for cosmetology, new threats face not only beauty professionals, but the consumers they serve. In an exclusive podcast for SALON TODAY, Editor Stacey Soble sat down with Myra Irizarry, PBA’s director of government affairs and industry relations to talk about the association’s new ‘I Am’ program, designed to help professionals educate both consumers and legislators. Here’s an excerpt of their interview:
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SALON TODAY: Many states have started the process of deregulation and looking at removing licensing—why is that something beauty professionals should be concerned about?
Irizarry: We’ve really seen deregulation increase from past years, and it’s a big concern because it would remove all requirements for licensing, including educational requirements. That would include removing a licensing exam—your state board exam—it would remove any kind of compliance issues that surround licensing. If a consumer had a complaint, he or she could no longer go through the board complaint process to address it. If a salon wasn’t practicing proper safety standards, there would no longer be an inspector to come out and address safety standards. So deregulation would have a major impact—not only on the professionals in the industry—but it would also pose health and safety risks to consumers. The bills that we’re seeing pop up from last year to this year are all encompassing broad, big, deregulation bills, meaning the states are writing pieces of legislation that would impact all licensed career fields, and, of course, cosmetology is lumped into it.
SALON TODAY: If a reader is in a state that is not considering deregulation, why should it matter to them?
Irizarry: Every state right now is licensed for cosmetology, and states tend to mimic or copy other states’ legislation when it passes. So if one state were to be successful in deregulating the cosmetology industry, it would then be very simple for other states to pick up that legislation and draft it and have it passed. It’s really a domino effect.
SALON TODAY: You mentioned consumer safety—are any of the states looking at ways to protect consumers if licenses were removed? Or should we be educating these officials about consumer safety?
Irizarry: We all need to take the position of becoming educators to help our state legislators learn about the industry, as well as about safety and potential risks, because they aren’t looking at that. Legislators aren’t looking at consumer safety, because they’re not looking beyond a haircut, and they’re thinking, what could possibly go wrong with a haircut? They’re not thinking about scalp issues, or lice, or the proper treatment for brushes, combs and instruments. We’ve all seen millions of stories about situations where someone has been injured or an infection has occurred, but these are things that legislators simply aren’t aware of—until they learn about all of the beauty services and what those services entail, they’re not going to understand or even believe that there is a consumer safety risk.
SALON TODAY: How did PBA’s new “I Am Licensed” campaign come about?
Irizarry: The campaign really addresses three issues and it developed after hearing from our members, so this is really a homegrown effort. Many of the calls and emails that I have received talk about a variety of issues from professionals having to compete against unlicensed people who are providing services and the consumers not being aware of whether or not the service providers are trained. And you can’t compete against it, because you can’t find out who is licensed and who isn’t. And, if you do find out someone is not licensed and you report it, sometimes hands are tied in regards to fines and tracking the person down so they won’t continue practicing the service. Lastly, as deregulation issues continue occurring, the campaign is meant to help stylists have an outlet to show pride in their industry, and show pride in the fact that they are licensed. And, it helps educate the consumer about what it means to be licensed and why that’s important.
SALON TODAY: When a salon requests an “I Am” kit, what does it include?
Irizarry: First, it’s a free program. The salon will get a briefing letter that explains the details of the program and how it’s designed to unite the industry and result in an educated consumer and state legislator. It includes a clear mirror cling that can be placed at the station and that reads, “I am a Professional. I am Licensed.” The cling is designed to start a dialogue between a client and her stylist and would encourage that client to ask other service providers she may patronize if they are licensed. The program also includes business card-sized cards that fold in half and include all the talking points that explain why it’s important to be licensed and why it’s important to have a regulated, safe industry. These will help a stylist answer a client’s questions or they can even be given to interested clients.
SALON TODAY: Government affairs seems like it takes a lot of time or a lot of knowledge to get involved. Is that true? How can people, particularly in our industry, get involved on the grassroots level?
Irizarry: It really doesn’t take a lot of time. It’s really up to you how much time you want to invest and spend. If you like to do things virally, you can go through YouTube, sign online petitions, or send an email—it can be as simple as that, and you can do it from your home laptop or your Smartphone. We do have other participants that like to be a little bit more active and choose to attend a lobby day or a hearing in the state when there is legislation of concern—introducing themselves to their state representative or senator. It really depends on your comfort level, but it’s really something simple to do. Everything is surrounded around some type of grassroots activity and we at PBA are here to support that and to provide all the materials, information, letters, contacts and everything for you to be successful if you want to participate.
Learn more about the I Am program and order your kit at probeauty.org.iam. Check the legislative threat status of your state at modernsalon.com/advocacy. And, if you would like to learn why choosing beauty is a sound career choice or help someone else understand more about the beauty industry, read CHOOSE BEAUTY.