A strict law that requires hairstylists to have cosmetology licenses for braiding has come under fire in New Jersey. Governor Phil Murphy vetoed a bill Monday (Aug. 27) that would have decriminalized the act in the state, WNBC reported.
The law threatens the welfare of hundreds of experienced braiders — the majority of whom are Black and immigrants. As it stands, the rule allows for fines and arrests for those who are unlicensed and unable to work in African hair braiding shops.
The state missed a chance to eliminate the controversial law, which doesn’t take into account the high costs and lengthy time commitments to become licensed.
The training time for licensing is a required 1,200 hours, which would prove tedious for many who already have a working knowledge of braiding. Also, tuition for school can cost more than $17,000. There’s also the problem that several schools in the state don’t specifically teach hair braiding.
“I had to fly all the way to Florida to get the license,” one hair braider told WNBC. “And…I try to use it here, they don’t allow me to use it here.”
Murphy shut down a repeal of the law, however, and suggested that some tweaks be made to it. His suggestions include reducing training to a maximum of 40 hours for experienced hair braiders and 50 hours for inexperienced ones; he also wants to add two experienced hair braiders to the New Jersey State Board of Cosmetology and Hairstyling.
Hair braiders in New Jersey are fighting the law at a time when fights against hair discrimination in public workplaces and schools have reached a fever pitch. A win to repeal the law could have national implications.