MUST READ: Licensure Is Under Assault

Originally published here, written by Fred Jones

If you’ve been reading any industry news the past couple of years, you’ve probably heard of various state legislatures considering delicensing the beauty industry. I’m here to tell you this is a very real threat.

And this movement isn’t limited to just far-right, libertarian policymakers; it has caught on with some on the left, who see costly (time/money) barriers to entry into the workforce as disproportionately impacting those on the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum.

So far, our united industry opposition has derailed most of the recent delicensure attempts in various state legislatures. But this movement’s intellectual and legal agitators are devising novel approaches to get at the same goal, including: chipping away at licensed scope of practice, reducing the hours and breadth of schooling requirements, opening up new ways for individuals to provide beauty and barbering services outside of a licensed and regulated environment, and legal challenges.

Whatever approach they may employ, their aim is based on a philosophical premise that government licenses to work (in any field) is definitionally offensive to our natural rights to earn a living, and therefore all such licenses should be wiped away. Some pushing for deregulation have even likened licensing enforcement to “Soviet-like tactics”, so clearly they are not supportive of government licensure of any kind.

The barbering and beauty industry has a long history of relying upon licensure to protect consumers, inform employers of a potential employee’s capabilities, and regulate safe standards in salons. This has been the case here in my state of California for a century.

Our’s is an industry that has been built on a system of formal education and apprenticing — which have historically been regulated by state agencies to protect the interest of students and apprentices. This training leads to a licensure exam that assesses the competencies — primarily safety protocols — of those worthy of a license. And that salons and individual practitioners are regulated to provide the public assurances that a licensed facility and individual will — at the very least — not harm them (and provide immediate consequences if they do, as opposed to just retaining an attorney and seeking a private, legal remedy that may take years to complete).

We should be asking policymakers tempted by this movement what are the real-world consequences of eroding regulatory oversight of our industry?

For starters, hundreds of thousands of businesses would be seriously disrupted, while millions of careers totally upended.  In my state, alone, there are over 50,000 licensed establishments and half-a-million individual licensees.  What would happen to their businesses or careers if suddenly anyone off the street could open shop and immediately start competing with them, absent any formal training or proof of qualifications and little to no regulatory oversight?  Is this something our elected representatives truly favor?  Stylists and salon owners vote, too!

Further, recent studies indicate that industries that enjoy government licensure see a dramatic decrease in racial and gender wage gaps. A license indicates to an employer that the applicant doesn’t have a serious or relevant criminal record and that they have certain basic, requisite skills. This explains the 43 percent reduction in the wage gap between white and black men who share the same license, and the 36-40 percent reduced gender wage gap (see “Occupational Licensing Reduces Racial and Gender Wage Gaps, Peter Q. Blair and Baby W. Chung, of Clemson Univ, May 15, 2017).  Do politicians favor increasing racial or gender compensation divides?

While it’s important for our industry to be united against delicensure and deregulation policy reform initiatives, we also need to consider what we might do to lessen the inertia that is building strength for this movement.

That is why my organization is advocating for reforms that will allow students who are on the path to licensure to begin working for pay in licensed salons under the direct supervision of a licensed professional.  Here in California, we call this “Externships.”

But under our current law, Externs aren’t allowed to start work in a salon until they’ve completed at least 60 percent of their schooling, credited up to only 10 percent of their overall schooling hours for such salon experience, limited to only 10 hours/week of salon time, and cannot receive pay for such salon service. In addition, the Extern law is only open to Cosmetology students enrolled in private colleges.

That is why we are supporting legislation (AB 2134) that would expand Externships to Barber students and those enrolled in public, Community Colleges. We are also requesting the legislation be amended to allow salons to pay their Externs, so that they may earn while they learn.


We are also opposing legislation — SB 999 (Morrell) — that is attempting to chip away at our licensed scope of practice by exempting shampooing, blow-drying and hair-styling that doesn’t include shears or chemicals. We see this as a thinly veiled effort to undermine our licensed framework altogether, and it most certainly will pour fuel on our already flaming unlicensed activity problem.  Therefore, we are calling upon everyone in our industry to unitedly oppose this dangerous bill. You can find more information about this bill’s progress at:  http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov]]

This movement is a clear and present danger to our industry.  Arm yourself with the knowledge to resist it, and then get active in your state’s policy setting arena to stop it cold.