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East 2 West Cutz manager and barber Jarred Powell and other barbers, cosmetologists, estheticians and manicurists are worried Senate Bill 803 will reduce the amount of professional education and training required in their fields.
East 2 West Cutz manager and barber Jarred Powell and other barbers, cosmetologists, estheticians and manicurists are worried Senate Bill 803 will reduce the amount of professional education and training required in their fields. Photo by Steve Puterski
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Barbers, hairstylists uneasy over proposed state legislation

REGION — A new bill racing through the California legislature could radically change the professional landscape for barbers, cosmetologists, estheticians and manicurists statewide.

A number of local barbers and Ray Stainback, owner of the Palomar Institute of Cosmetology in San Marcos, are rallying against Senate Bill 803, authored by Richard Roth (D-Riverside), which would reduce the number of school hours, eliminate practical exams and change other current requirements for the industry.

Fred Jones, legal counsel for Professional Beauty Federation in Auburn, and others said the bill is being driven by corporate entities such as SportClips, Great Clips, JC Penny Salon and others to lessen the requirements in order to hire more employees.

“The premise of the bill is unfounded,” Jones said. “It basically looks at our industry as a menial trade with not a lot of consumer harm implications. When you’re dealing with cuts and shaves and chemicals, you’re dealing with lots of consumer harms. On top of that, you’re dealing with an artistically demanding industry.”

Stainback, meanwhile, said students undergo 1,600 hours of training, or about 10 months, before they can apply for their license. The training includes hair, nails and skincare. Under the proposed SB 803, he said those hours would be slashed, including those for more specific skillsets.

Barbers also undergo 1,600 hours of training, which includes cuts, straight razors, shaving, safety measures and chemicals used in the shop, according to Jones and Stainback. Other professions with more specific disciplines have less than 1,600 training hours, but under the bill, those would be reduced.

Stainback said another issue is allowing licenses from other states as those requirements from another state don’t match California. Jones said SB 803 is a copycat bill and versions have been passed in Texas and other states, while Ohio is currently reviewing the bill.

Also, Stainback said the bill would be enacted on Jan. 1, 2022, and through the industry into chaos for students already enrolled with specific curriculum to follow.

Stainback and Powell said much of the industry went underground when they weren’t classified as essential workers at the beginning of the pandemic. Stainback said this bill would only push more underground.

“Ultimately, it’s going to be damaging for our industry and lower the bar,” Stainback said. “It allows them to get less qualified people quicker. My primary focus is consumer awareness, consideration of students already in school and prospective students.”

Manny Gonzalez, a licensed barber and owner of East 2 West Cutz in Oceanside, and Jarred Powell, a licensed barber and manager at East 2 West Cutz, said the bill also originally threatened to reclassify barbers, cosmetologists and others as employees, although Jones said that has been amended out of the bill.

Barbers, hairstylists and others in the industry were exempted under Assembly Bill 5, the law that upended independent contractors with more than 100 exemptions. One of the reasons for the exemption, Jones said, was the sizeable pushback from Black barbers and stylists.

Gonzalez, meanwhile, said if the bill were to pass in its original form, he wasn’t sure his business would survive. Also, he and Powell said barbershops and salons are their own communities where customers become friends and where people come together.

“I don’t know how it would impact my business model,” he said. “I have to figure that out. This hurts the tradition of barbershops. I grew up in a shop.”

Jones said 80% of the industry are sole proprietors and is a viable pathway for those to climb up the socio-economic ladder, especially people of color, Black men and women in general.

In total, more than 600,000 people and 50,000 salons and barbershops in the state are licensed, Jones said.

Powell, a Black barber, said it is important for those in the industry to remain independent and railed against the big chains pushing the bill.

Still, Gonzalez and Powell said the bill’s targeting of reducing training requirements will have consequences down the road. Stainback said in time of a public health emergency due to COVID-19, it’s no time for the legislature to lessen its requirements on public health and safety for trainees and those who are licensed.

The bill has been amended, in part thanks to Jones’ lobbying efforts. However, the bill still allows for the removal of the requirement for practical tests, that is on a person, Jones said.

Also, the bill had capped educational hours, but it was amended out of the legislation. Additionally, he said none of the 120 legislators have any experience in the industry other than being a customer, so it’s an educational process for them.

Jones said one of the core concepts of the bill is to remove the licensure component. He said one goal is to preserve more upfront education and training and don’t remove the hands-on, or practical, exam. Want to make sure the next generation is competent and professional.

“The chains are looking for is just to hire anyone off the street, teach them how to do very basic cuts knowing that they are going to churn and burn and they’re going to have to get more in 18 months or two years,” Jones said. “Reducing all of the education, licensing and scope of practice to that single perspective will limit the options of our school graduates and next generation of licensed professionals.”